A Rare Enterovirus In The Midwest Has Hospitalized Hundreds, But Don't Panic

A summer virus has hit remarkably hard this month, sending hundreds of Missouri children to hospitals and causing widespread panic over the outbreak of Enterovirus EV-D68 in the Midwest. People who contract enterovirus display symptoms similar to that of an acute cold, and as common as it is in September — the viruses' peak season — the unusually high number of hospitalizations and patients requiring intensive care are cause for alarm.

Experts are unsure why the virus is seeing an outbreak now. It generally causes coughing, difficulty breathing, and the occasional rash or fever, but this time around it's different, says William Schaffner, head of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University to CNN.

This one is the, if you will, odd cousin. It causes prominent respiratory symptoms. Why it does that, we're really not sure.

Children with asthma and allergies are most susceptible to the virus, although it usually isn't deadly. The good news is, no one has succumbed to this outbreak.

There have also been reports of the EV-D68 strain outside of Missouri. Colorado, Illinois, and Ohio have reported cases with similar symptoms and are awaiting test results as a sign of possible regional outbreak, according to officials and CNN affiliates in those states. At the Children's Hospital Colorado in Denver, over 900 patients have sought treatment in emergency rooms for severe respiratory illnesses, including enterovirus and viral infections, since mid-August, hospital spokeswoman Melissa Vizcarra told CNN.

According to WXIA-TV, Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Kentucky are experiencing clusters of enterovirus in their states and have asked for help from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate its outbreak.

Like other strains of enteroviruses, the illness seems to spread through close contact with those infected, making children the most vulnerable demographic as they share food and play during recess. Experts recommend regular hygiene methods to keep the virus at bay, like washing hands and disinfecting surfaces that are frequently touched by people, but there is no sure-fire way to prevent it.

There is no treatment specific to the virus, but according to the Missouri health agency, it requires only symptomatic treatment. If your kid unfortunately does contract it, chances are they'll beat it. "All of these folks are going to get better," says Schaffner.Images: Screenshot/USAToday (1)