Rare Respiratory Virus May Be in New England

Health officials in Rhode Island, Connecticut say they have suspected cases of Enterovirus D-68

A rare respiratory virus that has already affected hundreds of children in at least a dozen states may now be here in New England, after health officials in both Rhode Island and Connecticut say they have suspected cases of Enterovirus D-68.

"Over this weekend we noticed an increase in respiratory infections in our local emergency rooms," Dr. James McDonald with the Rhode Island Department of Heath said.

Symptoms are similar to the common cold or flu with a fever, runny nose and coughing, but the Enterovirus is particularly severe in children with a history of asthma or other breathing issues - landing some in the ICU.

"Right now we're preparing for a surge in respiratory illnesses that are expected since school is back in session now in the northeast," Dr. Michael Smit with Rhode Island Hospital said.

"My little one is 3 years old and she's in daycare and there's a lot of kids, and I'm very concerned about it," Connecticut parent Yesenia Javier

But doctors caution parents not to panic and race to the E.R. At this point, no deaths have been reported due to the virus.

"Treat it the same as you would any other asthma flare which may happen at any other time of the year it's just that at the moment what seems to be cause in a lot of the flares is this particular enterovirus," Dr. Nicholas Bennett with Connecticut Children's Medical Center said.

Doctors say the best advice is to try to prevent the spread of the virus by washing hands and using hand sanitizer, as well as keeping kids who aren't feeling well home.

Health officials say while they await test results to confirm whether Enterovirus D-68 is here in New England, they are already treating suspected cases.

"What we're really dealing with is symptom control. We don't have to know that enterovirus is present. We don't have to know it's in a particular patient. By the time you get testing back on a patient they're already going to be better," Dr. Bennett said.

Health officials in Rhode Island agree it may take a while to know for certain if Enterovirus D-68 is here in New England because it may take as long as two weeks for test results to come back.

Although there are no known cases in Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health continues to monitor the situation and has asked pediatric providers to contact them if they see an uptick in respiratory illnesses. 

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