Parents’ concerns rise as enterovirus cases are confirmed across tri-state

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NEW YORK (PIX11) -- The virus that had already shown a significant spike in cases in nearly a dozen states nationwide proved itself on Wednesday to be a rapidly spreading, potentially deadly illness.

By the end of the business day, new cases of the enterovirus were reported in New York City, on Long Island, in New Jersey and in Connecticut.

The situation left millions of families across the tri-state even more nervous than before that the ailment that most strongly affects children will end up sickening their babies, toddlers and elementary schoolers.

"I'm concerned," said Milagros Menuti, the mother of an infant and a preschooler, the latter of whom she was picking up from school in Elmsford, in Westchester County, when PIX11 News encountered her. "I'm afraid of other kids [having it] sometimes," she said. "I don't know if they are sick or not. You never know."

Menuti is like many parents in our area. She's concerned about the virus, even as she's thankful that neither of her children has the upper respiratory illness, which can be particularly severe. If left untreated, it can be fatal, although no deaths have been reported in this latest outbreak of the virus strain that was first discovered in 1962.

Still, it is so potentially severe that a handful of children had to stay overnight from Tuesday into Wednesday at the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester County Medical Center, where the virus, whose official name is Enterovirus EV-D68, is suspected.

The children, who range in age from six months to six years and also have asthma, received emergency care and asthma treatment, which is apparently keeping their conditions in check, as doctors await confirmation from the New York State Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control. Those offices test samples taken from patients to determine whether or not the cases are actually the Enterovirus.

On Tuesday night, the CDC had confirmed Enterovirus cases in 12 states, Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, as well as in upstate New York.

But by Wednesday afternoon, New Jersey and Connecticut were added to the list as a result of tests on samples sent in. Also, New York City and North Hempstead, Long Island were specifically added to the New York state tally.

"I think I would describe myself as cautiously concerned," said Tracy Telarek, a mother of two from Westchester County. "My children, thank God, are pretty healthy."

She has the same attitude as many parents throughout the region, and it may be a good one, according to doctors. The Blind Brook-Rye School District in Westchester received a warning from state health officials and, like dozens of schools across the Tri-State, it sent out a letter to parents encouraging them to watch for any sign of cold or flu-like symptoms in their children, and to be sure to not send sick kids to school.

It also urged parents to make sure their children wash their hands frequently in order to protect themselves and prevent the spread of the virus.