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Serious respiratory illness expected to hit Utah kids - Ogden Clinic provided source - Standard-Examiner 9/9/2014

(Standard-Examiner) OGDEN -- A serious respiratory virus sending hundreds of children to hospitals in 10 states will more than likely end up in Utah as well.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the viral infection, called human enterovirus 68, also known as EVD-68 or Eentrovirus D68 has been treated in Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Enterovirus includes a group of more than 100 common viruses and are not unusual at all, said Dr. Jason Church, a pediatrician at Ogden Clinic. What is unusual is the severity of the symptoms along with hospitalizations that have included some children ending up in the intensive care unit.

“We are seeing kids with more significant cold symptoms right now,” Church said. “We don’t typically do routine testing for cold viruses, but we are seeing some substantial symptoms. I think it’s just a matter of time. The virus will undoubtedly reach Utah.”

Dr. Brent Eberhard, a pediatrician at Tanner Clinic agrees.

“If the virus has spread to 10 states already, the likelihood of it coming to Utah is high,” he said.

In the past two weeks, Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City has seen increased numbers of children admitted to the hospital with serious respiratory disease symptoms, including pneumonia and asthma. Many are testing positive for the family of viruses that includes EV-D68.

The hospital has increased its surveillance of respiratory illness and is planning for increased numbers of children hospitalized for respiratory illness much earlier than the usual winter season. Parents should know that most children with cold symptoms are not going to get severely ill. However, if a child has difficulty breathing or is wheezing, they should see their primary care provider or seek medical attention. Children with asthma may be more at risk, and they should follow their asthma care plan. If a child with asthma has worsening symptoms, they should see their physician.

“People can help protect themselves and their children,” says Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Primary Children’s Hospital epidemiologist. “Wash your hands frequently, avoid close contact with people who are sick, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and stay home if you are ill.”

Church and Eberhard said there are a number of enteroviruses. This one, fairly rare until now, causes coughing, sneezing, wheezing and low blood oxygen levels. The symptoms can be more severe in a child who has asthma or other respiratory problems as well as children under the age of six months.

“It’s basically a cold with severe symptoms,” Church said. “It starts out like an average cold but becomes dramatically worse. You have to be careful with kids because one minute they can be just fine and the next minute they’re running a high fever. What I’m hearing from my colleagues and reading in the national publications is that this virus is causing much more significant disease in the lungs and not just the upper airways.”

Eberhard said young children and teens are infected more commonly than adults because their immunity to these viruses has not fully developed.

“There are many strains of enterovirus and there can be a wide range of symptoms with a varied degree of severity.Some cause mild fever and myalgia. Some cause GI symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal discomfort.In very rare cases, enterovirus can cause viral meningitis or pericarditis,” Eberhard said. “The enterovirus 68 that is suspected for causing the recent outbreak with more severe respiratory symptoms, is not typical.Respiratory symptoms of that severity makes one think that this strain of virus may be compared to influenza.”

The virus is shed from the GI and respiratory tract and can be contracted through contact and respiratory droplets.

“If your child is sick, keep them home. Don’t share utensils, toys and other objects,” Church said. “Because this is a viral infection, antibiotics will not treat it.”

Church said even with the severity of the illness, parents should not panic.

“Most kids are going to get better, even the kids who have to be hospitalized,” he said. “The best way to prevent it is to wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and stay away from people who are sick.”

If your child has rapid or shallow breathing, wheezing, signs of dehydration and lethargy, take them to their doctor or the emergency room.