Severe respiratory illness confirmed in La.


AP Medical Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Health officials say 12 states now have respiratory illnesses caused by an uncommon virus - enterovirus 68.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania together have 130 lab-confirmed cases. All are children.

The virus can cause mild to severe illness, with the worst cases needing life support for breathing difficulties. Kids with asthma have been especially vulnerable. No deaths have been reported.

The strain is not new but only a small number of labs can test for it. Since mid-August, there's been an unusual spike in identified cases. The CDC has tested more than 200 specimens from more than 30 states.

Investigators say it's not yet clear what triggered the outbreak or whether it's worsening.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals released the following information:

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) confirmed two cases of the Enterovirus D68 in the Capital Area today. Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is one of many enteroviruses that are very common in the United States and typically flare up in the fall months. Since children are the most susceptible to contracting EV-D68, DHH is encouraging parents to take simple steps to help prevent the spread of EV-D68, such as encouraging children to wash their hands, cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing, and to avoid sharing food or drink with people who are sick.

EV-D68 presents with cold-like symptoms, such as fever, coughing, body aches and a runny nose. It may also cause breathing problems or wheezing. Children with asthma or other respiratory illness are the most susceptible to being infected with EV-D68. When parents notice high fever, dehydration or trouble breathing they should immediately take their child in to see their primary care provider or to see a provider at an urgent care clinic.

"The best step we can all take now is to help prevent spread of the virus by using the same tools we do for the flu - wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and don't share food or drinks with people who are sick," said DHH Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Takeisha Davis. "Close contact with our loved ones may also encourage the spread of the virus, so avoid hugging or kissing someone who is sick and make sure to clean surfaces such as doorknobs and handles that may have been touched by someone who is sick."

The CDC said that in the coming weeks, more states will have confirmed cases of EV-D68 infection. The following information was taken from its website:

  • The primary reason for increases in cases is that several states are investigating clusters of people with severe respiratory illness, and specimens are still being tested for EV-D68. It can take a while to test specimens and obtain lab results. That's because the testing is complex and slower, and can only be done by CDC and a small number of state public health laboratories. As the backlog of specimens is processed, the number of states and confirmed cases will likely increase. These increases will not necessarily reflect changes in real time, or mean that the situation is getting worse.
  • Some of the increase will be from new EV-D68 infections since people are more likely to get infected with enteroviruses in the summer and fall. We are currently in the middle of the enterovirus season.

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