Respiratory virus EV-D68 growing threat in Illinois

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A growing threat in Illinois -- a respiratory virus spreading and threatening children. The emergency room is filling up at Lurie Children's as parents of children with viral symptoms are flooding the hospital -- this as hundreds are admitted across the Midwest.

For five days, four-year-old D'Mari Lockwood has been taking medicine in the hospital. The sweet boy seems happy now ... in stark contrast to last week when his mother rushed him to the hospital.

Lakeia Lockwood, D’Mari’s mother: “Struggling to breathe, coughing. They said the airways were so tight they actually, in Gary, said I almost lost him.”

D'Mari was transported by ambulance from Gary Hospital to Lurie Children's in Chicago. They gave him multiple medications to help him breathe.

Dr Larry Kociolek, Lurie Children’s pediatric infectious disease specialist: “This particular strain, enterovirus D68, which is not seen very commonly, has been associated with more severe respiratory illness.”

The virus making a comeback now is from the 1960's. It is in a class of enteroviruses that sicken children every year at this time as they head back to school.

Dr Larry Kociolek: “Very common complaints in children are fever, rash, pink eye, diarrhea.”

EV-D68 impacts breathing. it is not more contagious than other enteroviruses but it can be more dangerous.

Dr Larry Kociolek: “Specific symptoms they should look out for wheezing, very important if they are short of breath, have difficulty breathing, anything that seems more severe from a respiratory standpoint should prompt them to seek care in the emergency room.”

Dr LaMar Hasbrouck, Director, Illinois Department of Public Health: “We want to caution parents who have children who are more at risk for complications because they have asthma or other disease conditions. If they begin to struggle in terms of their respiratory, their breathing, you want to take them right into a healthcare provider.”

That's because early infections help people build up immunity. As for those sick now, boosting the immune system is the only way to fight. There is no vaccine for this virus, and antibiotics, designed to battle bacteria, do not take away symptoms.

Good hygiene can help prevent EV-D68 spread. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds. Cover your cough or sneeze as droplets carry the virus from person to person. And do not send sick children to school. With increased concern, doctors are on the hunt to find the culprit, now testing samples specifically for EV-D68.

Dr Larry Kociolek: “Additional testing would be required, and we are working with the department of public health, who is working with the CDC, to do additional, more sophisticated testing on the specimens to determine whether this virus is causing problems for our patients.”

Dr LaMar Hasbrouck: “What I will say is, we’re not hitting the panic button. What I will say is that every year there are ten to 15 million enteroviral infections every year. What this is, seems to be more activity than would be expected at this point in time and with this rare type.”

There are about a dozen confirmed cases in Chicago, but not every doctor's office or hospital is testing samples as it is costly. And a specific diagnosis will not change the way a patient is treated. As more samples come in, we are likely to see more documented cases of enterovirus-D68 in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.

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