A rare virus has reemerged in the Midwest hospitalizing hundreds of kids and threatening to cause an epidemic, all before the start of the actual cold and flu season. Health officials warn that while the virus is not deadly, it is crowding intensive care units across the nation.
Known as Enterovirus EV-D68 (enterovirus 68), this strain is similar to the rhinovirus which causes the common cold. The illness is marked by severe respiratory distress, particularly in children under 10 years of age whose little airways can become narrowed, characterized by a wheezing noise.
Where have the worst cases been reported?
Currently, Colorado has been hit the worst with 900 cases treated at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver, and that’s just since mid-August. According to the CDC, nine other states including Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Georgia have all asked for assistance in treating this virus. Pediatric intensive care units are filling up, with the worst cases being reported in children who already suffer from asthma.
First identified in the 1960s, enterovirus 68 is rare but not new. In 2009 it made a small appearance in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona. What’s disconcerting is the number of cases confirmed this year alone, which already tops 1,000.