NEW YORK (PIX11) — A rare, potentially serious strain of a respiratory illness that has hospitalized children across the country has spread throughout New York state, health officials said Wednesday as they reminded New Yorkers to be vigilant in preventing enterovirus D68.
“New Yorkers must take precautions to protect children, especially those who are immune-compromised or have asthma and other respiratory problems, from getting the virus,” acting New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said. “We will continue to work with our partners at the CDC and local health departments to ensure that all New Yorkers have the information they need to prevent infection.”
A request for details about how many EV-D68 cases have been confirmed in New York was not returned by the time of publication.
Last week, New York City and New Jersey confirmed its first cases of the illness. The young patients were all treated at a hospital and released.
While enteroviruses are common during the late summer and fall seasons, this strain of the illness occurs less often than others and its symptoms can be severe, especially among children with asthma.
So far, 30 states have reported cases of EV-D68, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 213 people have been infected.
EV-D68 is spread through close contact with an infected person, or by touching surfaces or objects that are contaminated with the virus then touching your mouth, nose or eyes, health officials said.
Symptoms include cough, runny nose, sneezing, body aches and a low-grade fever. Most of the children who became very ill had difficulty breathing and some wheezing, and many of them had asthma or a history of respiratory problems, the CDC said.
There is no vaccine or specific treatment for enterovirus infections and most patients recover on their own.
But health officials warn that individuals with weakened immune systems or underlying health conditions — particularly asthma — could suffer severe complications.
The best ways to prevent the spread of the virus is to:
- Wash hands often with soap and water;
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
- Avoid close contact (kissing, touching, sharing eating utensils and shaking hands) with people who are sick;
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as door knobs and toys;
- Stay home when sick and call your healthcare provider;
- Use good respiratory hygiene, like coughing and sneezing into a tissue or elbow and properly disposing tissues.