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Rare Respiratory Virus That Has Sickened Over a Thousand Kids in 10 States Is Likely to Spread 'Across the Country

"...if your state doesn't have it now, watch for it. It's coming."

Image source: KCNC-TV

A rare respiratory illness that's sickened more than a thousand kids in 10 states is likely to spread all across the United States, ABC News reported, citing doctors.

More from ABC News:

The disease hasn't been officially identified in every state, but in some states a rare respiratory virus called human enterovirus 68 has been found. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is related to the rhinovirus, which causes the common cold.

...At least 10 states -- Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Georgia -- have reported suspected outbreaks of human enterovirus 68 and requested CDC support.

"Viruses don't tend to respect borders," ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said. "It is only 10 states now, but it's going to be across the country. So if your state doesn't have it now, watch for it. It's coming."

Image source: KCNC-TV Image source: KCNC-TV

Officials at Children's Hospital Colorado in Denver said doctors saw over 900 pediatric patients with symptoms of the respiratory virus in the emergency room between Aug. 18 and Sept. 4, ABC News reported; of those 86 were admitted to the hospital — and a few of those patients ended up in intensive care.

"It can start just like a cold — runny nose, sneezing, coughs — but it's the wheezing you have to watch out for," Besser noted to ABC News.

Dr. Christine Nyquist, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Colorado, told the outlet that the virus can be especially dangerous for kids with asthma.

"The kids are coming in with respiratory symptoms, their asthma is exacerbated," Nyquist told ABC News. "Kids with no wheezing are having wheezing."

More from ABC News:

At Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, Dr. Raju Meyappan, a pediatric critical care physician, said he's seen at multiple children end up in the pediatric intensive care unit after being infected with the virus and that children under the age of 5 or those with asthma appear to be most at risk.

In one particularly severe case, Meyappan said a 13-year-old asthmatic patient ended up in the emergency room just one day after showing basic cold-like symptoms, including cough and runny nose.

His asthma became so severe on the second day the teenager turned blue and was rushed to the emergency room, where doctors gave him an emergency breathing tube.

The patient was one of multiple asthmatic pediatric patients who ended up sedated in the intensive care unit with a breathing tube, Meyappan said. Patients who needed breathing tubes spent between four to seven days sedated and intubated as they recovered, he said.

Doctors said they're unsure how this virus spreads but emphasized that being vigilant about hand washing and spreading germs as kids go back to school is crucial.

"This is a very common time for outbreaks. Kids come back to school, they like to share things, they bring them home to their little brothers and sisters, and enteroviruses tend to occur in the summer," Besser told ABC News. "But this one, this particular Enterovirus 68, is very rare and they have no idea why it showed up this year."

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