Doctors at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City are seeing a significant increase in respiratory illness over the past two weeks. They have identified enterovirus D-68 as the likely source of many of these illnesses.
Dr. Andrew Pavia is Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Primary Children’s Hospital. In his twenty years of experience, he says he’s has never seen this many hospitalizations for a viral disease in September.
“What we’re seeing is an increase in children with wheezing,” Pavia says. “Some look like they have severe asthma. Some are sufficiently short of breath that they need intensive care treatment.”
Dr. Pavia says the hospital has seen about 100 children with these symptoms over the past 4 weeks. In response, Primary Children’s has stepped up their staffing and imposed restrictions on children visiting the hospital. The rapid increase in disease and the symptoms suggest to him that enterovirus D68 has reached Utah, but there have been no confirmed cases yet.
“We believe that what we’re seeing is very consistent with enterovirsu 68, but we are waiting for confirmation that it is here,” Pavia says.
Hospital staff have sent samples to Centers for Disease Control and hope to have an answer within two days. Pavia says concerned parents should know that the majority of children who contract the disease will have only mild symptoms. Those with asthma may be at risk for more severe symptoms.
“For most kids, they’re just not going to be sick enough that they need to be seen at a hospital. Most kids won’t even need to be seen by a doctor,” Pavia says. “Use common sense. If your child looks sick enough to be brought into the doctor’s office, that’s the first step. If they’re really short of breath, that’s when you come straight to the hospital.”
Doctors say enterovirus is spread much like the flu, from contact with fluids. But unlike influenza, there is no vaccine for it. Thousands of children across the country have contracted the virus over the past 2 months. None have died from it. Based on trends in other states, Dr. Pavia believes the disease will likely subside in October.