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Severe Respiratory Virus Has Now Sickened Children in 16 States

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More than 100 children infected.

An uncommon, yet severe respiratory illness has spread from 10 states up to 16 in about a month. There is no vaccine or antiviral treatment for the infection. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

While earlier on Wednesday, health officials might have said a dozen states saw confirmed cases of a severe respiratory illness that primarily affects children, by later in the day it added four states more to the list.

A little more than a week ago, enterovirus D68, an uncommon respiratory illness, was confirmed in 10 states. Taking stock of infections occurring from mid-August to Sept. 17, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there now have been cases in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia. About 140 children in these states have come down with EV-D68, but no deaths have been reported.

The states with confirmed enterovirus D68 cases. The CDC said it expects the number of infections to increase as test results are still being processed. (Image source: CDC) The states with confirmed enterovirus D68 cases. The CDC said it expects the number of infections to increase as test results are still being processed. (Image source: CDC)

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.

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, but the CDC warned Wednesday that more states are likely to report confirmed cases of the infection in the coming weeks. This is because it takes time for test results to come back.

Watch this report from KPIX-TV about the recent spread of the virus:

While there will likely be increases in the number of infections, the CDC said that the public should not consider these spikes as a reflection of the infection rate in real time or an indication that the health situation is getting worse.

According to the CDC, this is currently the middle of "enterovirus season" and infections are expected to decline as fall progresses.

An uncommon, yet severe respiratory illness has spread from 10 states up to 16 in about a month. There is no vaccine or antiviral treatment for the infection. (Photo credit: Shutterstock) An uncommon, yet severe respiratory illness has spread from 10 states up to 16 in about a month. There is no vaccine or antiviral treatment for the infection. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

There are no vaccines or antiviral medications to combat EV-D68 infections, but some treatments give relief to symptoms.

The CDC provides these tips for helping prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.

  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Front page image via Shutterstock.

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