Officials: Virus makes breathing hard for 39 kids
Rare cases of virus can resemble polio, harm spinal cord
New York health officials are reporting that 39 children statewide, including some in the Capital Region, have confirmed cases of an airborne virus that can cause polio-like symptoms and severe respiratory illness.
The enterovirus, EVD68, most commonly causes mild symptoms among those infected, including runny nose, sneezing, cough, body and muscle aches. But for some, especially those with asthma or a history of wheezing, it can cause severe symptoms such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.
In some rare instances, state officials say, the virus can cause acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) — a serious condition that can cause rapid and acute weakness in the arms or legs, as well as spinal cord damage. So far in 2018, no cases of AFM have been confirmed in New York, the state health department said Friday.
In general, infants, children and teenagers are most likely to get infected with EV-D68 and become ill because they do not yet have immunity from previous exposures to enteroviruses, officials say. Children with asthma may have a higher risk for severe respiratory illness. Adults can get infected with enteroviruses, but they are more likely to have no symptoms or mild symptoms.
“All parents must take simple steps to protect their children, especially those who are immunecompromised or have respiratory problems, to avoid becoming infected,” said state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. “We will continue to work with our partners at the CDC and local health departments to make sure that all New York families
In general, infants, children and teenagers are most likely to get infected with EV-D68 and become ill because they do not yet have immunity from previous exposures to enteroviruses, officials say.
have the information they need to prevent their children and others from getting the virus.”
The cases that have been confirmed so far were reported in the Capital Region, Western and Central New York, and Long Island, state health officials said. Specimens have been received from other regions, as well, for specialized testing at state’s Wadsworth Laboratory — which is the only laboratory in the state that can confirm EV-D68.
Results are being shared with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to monitor the circulation of the virus nationally.
Small numbers of the enterovirus have been reported regularly in the U.S. since 1987, with people more likely to become infected in the summer and fall. Because a mix of enteroviruses circulates every year, different types of enteroviruses can be common in different years.
In summer and fall 2014, however, New York and other states witnessed the first documented nationwide outbreak of EV-D68. From midaugust 2014 to January 15, 2015, the CDC or state public health laboratories confirmed a total of 1,153 people in 49 states and the District of Columbia with respiratory illness caused by EV-D68.
Almost all of the confirmed cases were among children. Additionally, there were likely many thousands of mild EVD68 infections for which people did not seek medical treatment and/or get tested.