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Emergency Case

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Respiratory Illness Sending More Kids to the ER

At least 14 states are reporting a “marked increase” in the number of patients — mostly children and teens — admitted to the hospital with respiratory distress or needing intensive care for respiratory symptoms.

Having said this, in the scope of the big picture, there is no reason for a panic. The spread so far has been not very large, and in general as its coming from West to East, it seems to be dissipating.

The concern is both the increased number of patients affected and the severity of the illness. Many present with severe refractory wheezing, requiring continuous albuterol treatment and oxygen supplementation, and some patients need either noninvasive ventilation or full-scale mechanical ventilation.

The true extent of the outbreak is not clear. But, there’s also a lot of mild disease out there that goes unreported.

What is causing this illness?

Enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. However, most people are only mildly symptomatic.

What are the symptoms?

Mild symptoms may include:

  • fever
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • cough
  • body and muscle aches

This is what most otherwise healthy people might experience.

Children who were severely ill additionally had:

  • difficulty breathing
  • wheezing

*Many of these children had asthma or a history of wheezing.

How does the virus spread?

EV-D68 can be found in an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum.

EV-D68 likely spreads via coughs, sneezes, or touching a contaminated surface.

Who is at risk?

Generally, infants, children, and teenagers.  That’s because they do not yet have immunity from previous exposures to these viruses.

*People with a history of asthma and allergies are more at risk for more severe forms of the illness.

How is it treated?

Since it is a virus, there is no need to treat with antibiotics.

Treating symptoms, just as with a cold or flu, with over-the-counter remedies is adequate.

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