‘Unprecedented’ Virus Outbreak Hits Midwest, Leaves Kids Gasping

As if the Ebola scares weren’t enough. Now a respiratory virus is rapidly spreading across the midwest infecting hundreds of children, often sending them to the intensive care unit.

The virus has been identified as Human enterovirus 68, or EV-D68. It is uncommon. Initially discovered in the 1960s, there have been less than 100 cases until this recent outbreak. However, that low number might be because the virus is hard to identify. The initial symptoms are similar to a common cold, but give way to severe respiratory problems. After just a few hours, children can be left gasping for breath and requiring immediate attention in the ICU.

Dr. Mark Pallansch, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Viral Diseases, told CNN that the high number of Midwest hospitalizations could be “just the tip of the iceberg in terms of severe cases.”

The problem started when school came back into session, about August 17. Since then, the virus has hit certain parts of the Midwest particularly hard.

According to CNN, the virus has about 30 kids a day going to the hospital in Kansas City.

Dr. Mary Anne Jackson of Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Hospital described the situation.

“It’s worse in terms of scope of critically ill children who require intensive care. I would call it unprecedented. I’ve practiced for 30 years in pediatrics, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”

As of early last week, Children’s Mercy Hospital reported 450 cases of the virus.

Reuters also reported that there were70 children with respiratory problems in Blessing Hospital in Quincy, Illinois. More than 900 kids ended up in Children’s Hospital Colorado because of the virus.

Ten Midwest states have called the CDC for help: Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Kentucky.

Officials are fearing that the virus may spread out of the Midwest or start affecting adults. Hannibal Regional Hospital issued the following warning on their Facebook page.

“That children 16 and under and persons with the following symptoms refrain from visiting patients who are hospitalized at Hannibal Regional Hospital until further notice.”

There is no vaccine yet for the Midwest virus, nor are there any specific treatments to best tackle EV-D68.

Officials are recommending the common advise for a virus. Individuals should wash their hands often with soap and water, especially after handling unsanitary objects like dirty diapers. People should also be careful to limit their contact with people who appear to be sick.

[Image Credit: James Gathany/Wikimedia Commons]