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Enterovirus D-68 reaches North Dakota; state health department confirms illness in resident

September 26, 2014

By BRYCE MARTIN | Pioneer Editor | bmartin@countrymedia.net

A serious respiratory illness affecting thousands of children across the country this month has reached North Dakota, infecting a child in Stutsman County.

According to the North Dakota Department of Health, the child was infected with Enterovirus D-68 (EV-D68), which has plagued many states and continues to do so across the United States.

The child was hospitalized with symptoms including difficulty breathing, coughing and wheezing, and later treated and released.

“This is the first confirmed EV-D68 case that has been reported in North Dakota,” confirmed Jill Baber, epidemiologist with the North Dakota Department of Health. “However, enteroviruses are not reportable to the North Dakota Department of Health, so the number of cases being reported are not necessarily representative of the number of EV-D68 cases in the state.”

Enteroviruses are common respiratory viruses that affect an estimated 10 to 15 million people in the United States each year, most often in the summer and fall. But EV-D68 is far less common than other enteroviruses, reported first in California several decades ago.

While respiratory illnesses are common, the alarm in recent weeks was triggered by the large amount of children suddenly coming down with the illness and being hospitalized. According to health care officials, the virus sent more than 30 children a day to a Kansas City, Mo., hospital, where about 15 percent of those children were placed in intensive care.

It’s a serious situation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because EV-D68 is easily transmitted, through coughs, sneezes or contact with surfaces contaminated with saliva or mucus.

Infected individuals experience mild to severe respiratory illness that may include cough, wheezing and trouble breathing, which can lead to further complications. Parents, as always, should seek medical attention if their child has difficulty breathing and should treat other influenza-type symptoms the same as they normally would.

“Not all respiratory illnesses occurring now are due to EV-D68. There are many different viruses that can cause respiratory illness, including influenza,” Baber said.

Also like the flu, there is no specific remedy for EV-D68, but the public can protect themselves against the virus, and other respiratory viruses, by frequently washing hands with soap and water, avoiding close contact with sick people and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

WHAT IS ENTEROVIRUS D-68?

Enterovirus D-68 (EV-D68) is one of many non-polio enteroviruses. This virus was first identified in California in 1962, but it has not been commonly reported in the United States until recent months. EV-D68 can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. Mild symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. EV-D68 likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches contaminated surfaces. (SOURCE: Center for Disease Control)

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