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Health news and issues in the Ozarks.

Enterovirus D68 Symptoms Seen in Springfield/Illness Unconfirmed

Michael Cote

A respiratory illness is sending hundreds of kids to hospitals in ten states, including Missouri.  While there have been no confirmed cases in Springfield, medical facilities here have been treating patients with similar symptoms.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more.

The illness that’s affecting children in the U.S. is suspected to be enterovirus D68.  While only a few cases have actually been confirmed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suspects that’s what’s causing the outbreaks in ten states.

CoxHealth has no confirmed cases of EV-D68, but Vicki Good, director of clinical safety at Cox, says they’ve admitted and treated approximately 30 people with similar respiratory illness symptoms since mid-August.

And Mercy has been seeing similar cases, according to spokesperson Sonya Kullmann.

Good says enteroviruses are very common viruses.

"There's more than 100 different enteroviruses that are out there, and there's an estimated probably ten to 15 million infections that occur in the United States each year from these viruses," she said.

Good says most people with enterovirus have mild symptoms if they have any at all.  But some of the infections can be more serious.

EV-D68, the strain that’s suspected in the outbreaks in the U.S., is less common and was first isolated in 1962, according to Good.  The strain generally occurs more in children than adults.

She suspects that type of enterovirus is what they’ve been seeing at CoxHealth, but they don’t know for sure.

"In order to isolate this particular virus it takes very specific type of testing equipment, and so, in Springfield both facilities, Cox and Mercy, we're not testing for that specific virus, but we are seeing patients with similar signs and symptoms of this virus," she said.

People with chronic respiratory illness such as asthma are at higher risk of developing more serious symptoms.  But 25 percent of those hospitalized recently in Kansas City were otherwise healthy kids.

Good says the key to stopping the spread of EV-D68 is prevention.  There are things you can do, she says, to keep yourself and your kids healthy.

"This is just the start of virus season.  You know, the influenza is next to hit us.  You know, traditionally it starts in November/December, and so it's a good time to just remember basic prevention measures in general for any kind of illness:  extremely good hand washing, you know, with soap and water, avoid touching your eyes, your nose, your mouth with unwashed hands, avoid sharing cups and eating utensils with other people and then disinfecting high touch surfaces such as toys, door knobs, especially if someone in your home is sick or you learn that somebody that has been in your home has become sick," she said.

Symptoms of EV-D68 include a cough with or without fever, wheezing and shortness of breath.  Good says parents should seek medical treatment if their child has difficulty breathing.