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article imageEnterovirus spreading among U.S. children

By Tim Sandle     Sep 13, 2014 in Science
A previously rare respiratory virus is landing hundreds of children in hospitals across the U.S. Worryingly, it is unknown why the virus seems to only cause severe illness in children.
The problem became apparent during August 2014, as Megan Hamilton has reported for Digital Journal. Here, children’s hospitals in Chicago and Kansas City, Missouri, noted unusual numbers of patients with severe respiratory symptoms. In early September, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the presence of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) in samples from 30 patients, about two-thirds of whom suffer from asthma. This is the same type of virus as the virus that causes polio, although it is important to stress that most enterovirus infections are relatively harmless; enteroviruses and rhinoviruses typically cause symptoms of the common cold.
Indeed, the virus is rarely fatal. However, patients may have extreme difficulty breathing, causing their blood oxygen levels to drop. Many have been admitted to intensive care units and treated with oxygen therapy.
These were not the first cases of the virus this year. Digital Journal reported in March that scientists in California had identified strange and unexplained cases of polio-like paralysis in children. The patients experienced weakness and paralysis, which sometimes followed respiratory symptoms. These cases were caused by the same virus.
As to the root cause of the current outbreak, Rafal Torkaz, a microbiologist at Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity, told The Washington Post: "We speculate that this virus in the past 10 to 15 years has sort of evolved into different sub types. Maybe it has mutated into something that is more easily transmissible. I don’t know if that is the case but it's certainly possible."
More about Enterovirus, Asthma, Children, Virus
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