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Virus Causing Illness In NY Children


Cases of enterovirus EV-D68 have been confirmed in the Capital Region and Central New York. The once “rare” virus has been affecting children.

The virus is associated with cases of severe respiratory illness among children and other individuals, sometimes resulting in hospitalization, especially among children with asthma. The New York State Department of Health said Friday at least 12 children in New York have contracted D68.

Bryon Backenson is a research scientist with the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control at the New York State Health Department.  "We've known about enteroviruses in general for a really long time. There's about a hundred or so different kinds of enterovirus, one of which is this D68, the one that's in the news."
The virus was first identified in California in 1962, but until now it had not been commonly reported in the United States.   Dennis McKenna is Medical Director at Albany Medical Center Hospital.    "This may represent a seasonal virus similar to what we see with influenza or another virus we see during the winter months called RSV."

Credit CDC

According to McKenna., the public shouldn't be concerned at this point. He recommends good hygiene with handwashing and proper precautions when coughing or sneezing in public.   "We have seen a slight increase in the number of people who are presenting here with respiratory illnesses, but at this point it is difficult to know whether or not that is attributable to the new virus or whether or not that is representative of that and other viruses as well."

Backenson explains D68 symptoms are flu-like:   "They're respiratory symptoms. What we're seeing with regards to children getting sick from this is that children who have a pre-existing respiratory condition, like asthma, are the children you're hearing about on the news."

McKenna adds most pediatric patients who end up hospitalized after contracting the virus don't stay hospitalized for very long. Concerned parents who have gone Googling for information may be frightened to see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mention D68 and polio on the same topic line; McKenna says there's no connection to polio.   "It can be confusing if you read online about enterovirusing and the polio family. I think we have to be absolutely certain  that we message out that there's no chance of getting polio as a result of exposure to this virus."

There are no vaccines for preventing EV-D68 infections. What if you think you've been stricken by D68?   "By and large if people are coming down with a cold or cold symptoms they should just contact their primary care doctor as they would in the past. There's no need to have any type of concern that this will turn into anything more - but obviously if things change, things evolve, we'll reach out to the public."

Backenson says the outbreaks are self-limiting.   "We expect D68 to kind of go away the same way it arrived, which is relatively suddenly."

Federal health officials say EV-D68 infections are likely to decline later in the fall.

According to the New Yrok Times, the virus was first discovered in Uganda’s Zika forest in 1947, but wasn’t common in the West until an outbreak was found in Brazil last May.
Credit Center for Disease Control and Prevention

  •   Below is the text of this post as it originally appeared on Saturday, September 13th:

New York is the latest state to confirm cases of a severe respiratory illness among children.
The health department says there are more than a dozen children infected so far with enterovirus EV-D68.

Federal health officials have said it's an uncommon strain in a common family of viruses that cause infections from late summer into the fall.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this year's outbreak is unusually severe and includes serious breathing problems. The virus usually causes mild cold-like symptoms that last about a week. Most children recover without lasting problems.

There is no vaccination. Prevention involves hand-washing, disinfecting surfaces and any usual steps to prevent the spread of flu.

First identified in California in 1962, EV-D68has been rare in the U.S. The CDC says it has confirmed cases in six other states as of Friday.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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