Two young Tennessee children — one in East Tennessee and one in West Tennessee — had enterovirus D68, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday.
Both children were hospitalized with the respiratory illness, which has been sweeping the nation, but are now home and “doing well,” said Tennessee Department of Health officials.
The two are the first lab-confirmed cases of enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, in the state, which until Wednesday was one of only four states in the continental U.S. to have no confirmed cases.
“We have now confirmed two cases, while other samples have tested positive for different, common, seasonal cold viruses,” said state health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner. “It is also likely other samples will test positive for EV-D68 in the future.”
EV-D68, is one of more than 60 types of enteroviruses. They usually cause cold-like symptoms in people. Each year, 10 million to 15 million enterovirus infections occur in the U.S., most of them mild.
Children and babies are more likely than adults to get ill from enteroviruses, and this particular virus has caused severe respiratory illness in children, especially those with asthma or other pre-existing problems.
Since mid-August, 664 cases of EV-D68 have been confirmed in 45 states plus the District of Columbia. The extent of the infection varies by state.
So far, five patients who died have tested positive for EV-D68. The virus has also been linked to a few cases of a polio-like paralysis in other states, health officials said.
There is no vaccine for EV-D68 and no specific treatment except for supportive care to give the body a chance to fight off infection.
Many states are reporting increases in the number of children with severe respiratory illness, though Tennessee has not been one of them. Though many viruses common during this type of year could cause severe respiratory illness, the CDC said, “EV-D68 appears to be the predominant type of enterovirus this year and is likely contributing to the increases in severe respiratory illnesses.”
Public health officials said October is the “middle of the enterovirus season,” and that infections are likely to decline in coming months. But in many states, including Tennessee, influenza season is just beginning.
“This is cold and flu season, and simple measures like washing your hands and not touching your face are important ways to help protect against germs like EV-D68 that can’t be prevented with vaccine,” said Dreyzehner. “This is also an excellent time to get your flu shot to protect yourself and people around you from flu.”
The state health department is sharing information about EV-D68 with health care providers through the Tennessee Health Alert Network, reminding health-care providers “to consider EV-D68 in patients with symptoms of respiratory illness.”
Meanwhile, health officials remind people with respiratory symptoms that they should not to go to work or to public places where they can spread viruses, and to cover their noses and mouths with their arms or shoulders when coughing or sneezing.
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