STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning to health providers after an increase in pediatric hospitalizations among children who tested positive for a respiratory virus.
The virus, known as enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), has been found in a higher proportion of children compared to recent years, the agency said in its alert Friday, and officials are bracing for the potential more cases will arise in the coming weeks.
EV-D68 has similarities to rhinoviruses, or the common cold, but has the potential to cause more significant neurological complications like acute flaccid myelitis — a polio-like illness that can lead to paralysis.
Around 10% of people diagnosed with EV-D68 during a 2004 United States outbreak developed acute flaccid myelitis, according to research. There is currently no vaccine or specific treatments to manage the virus, officials said.
The initial similarities, however, could lead to difficulties detecting EV-D68, which, akin to the common cold, typically peaks in the early fall.
While adults could be infected by EV-D68, experts said it is more common among adults with underlying conditions. Children around the age of 3 are among the most affected, but all ages of children and adolescents are at risk, regardless of underlying lung conditions like asthma, said the CDC.
The agency advised pediatricians to be aware of the increase and consider it when symptoms are present. Additionally, laboratory testing should be completed when the cause of respiratory infection in severely ill patients is unclear.
To protect against EV-D68, the CDC recommends frequent hand-washing, similar to prevention methods for other respiratory illnesses. Additionally, health authorities suggest wearing a mask around others if you have respiratory symptoms.
“Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick, and when you are sick,” said the CDC, adding: “Stay home when you are sick.”
If a child is sick or has sudden breathing issues or limb weakness, call a healthcare provider.