Respiratory illness spreads to Minnesota
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota is the latest state with a confirmed case of a serious respiratory illness sickening American children. The state Health Department on Wednesday said that a child is recovering at home from enterovirus D-68 after being disch...
ST. PAUL - Minnesota is the latest state with a confirmed case of a serious respiratory illness sickening American children.
The state Health Department on Wednesday said that a child is recovering at home from enterovirus D-68 after being discharged from a Twin Cities hospital.
The department reported that the confirmation of enterovirus means it “may be responsible for some of the recent increases in pediatric admissions for severe respiratory illnesses in several Minnesota hospitals.”
No such increases have been seen at either St. Luke’s hospital or Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, hospital representatives said Wednesday.
At least 16 other states have seen confirmed cases of enterovirus D-68, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Other respiratory viruses also have been confirmed in Minnesota in the past two weeks, especially among children.
Health officials said that often, but not always, children with enterovirus have asthma.
The Twin Cities child was diagnosed because of a statewide system in place to identify respiratory viruses.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said the “surveillance system ... can provide information on which respiratory viruses are circulating in the state and help us understand the burden caused by a particular virus.”
Lynfield said that enterovirus can be spread any time of the year, but more cases typically are seen in the late summer and early fall. There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses, and federal health officials estimate that up to 15 million enterovirus infections occur each year in the country.
Symptoms include respiratory distress, fever, rash, gastrointestinal symptoms, neurological symptoms, heart symptoms and pinkeye.
Enterovirus can be spread by close contact with an infected person who may cough or sneeze. It also can spread if someone touches objects or surfaces that have the virus on them, and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
There is no specific treatment for people with respiratory illness caused by enteroviruses, Minnesota health officials said.
Health Department officials advise:
-- People who are sick with respiratory illness should limit their contact with others, cover their coughs and sneezes, and wash their hands frequently.
-- Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, going to the bathroom or changing diapers.
-- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
-- Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
-- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
-- Take advantage of available vaccines, such as flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine.
Since mid-August, the CDC has received reports of 140 people with confirmed cases of the virus. There is no vaccine, and infants, children and teenagers have the greatest risk of infection. So far, there have been no reported deaths from the illness, which could be fatal in serious cases.
U.S. health officials said they expect more states to confirm cases in the weeks ahead, noting that clusters of illness are under investigation in several states and that testing to confirm the virus takes time.
More reported cases may just mean a testing backlog is clearing, and not necessarily that the situation is worsening, CDC officials said.
Reuters contributed to this story.