Illness hits kids across country

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An outbreak of an enterovirus is making its way through the country, causing more than 1,000 children to be hospitalized, and though no cases have been confirmed in the state, officials are urging locals to take precautions.

The Centers for Disease Control defines human enterovirus 68 (D68) as a respiratory illness, and it has affected children in 11 states from Colorado to Georgia.

Alabama Department of Public Health State Epidemiologist Dr. Mary McIntyre said there have been reports of clusters of the illness, but testing has not confirmed the illness in Alabama.

“We don’t have confirmation of D68 in Alabama yet,” he said. “But we have received some specimens at our state lab that are being sent to the CDC for testing. We’ve been told that because the numbers are starting to climb at the CDC, they are prioritizing testing based on the severity of illness.”

Children and teenagers are primarily being affected by the illness.

“We know that it’s hitting children and teenagers really hard,” she said. “If they’re having a lot of problems, they need to contact their physician about it.”

McIntyre said the virus is creating issues for children with known asthma.

“But not all children that have come down with it have a history of asthma,” she said. “It is also affecting kids that are considered to be normally healthy.”

McIntyre told the Star-News on Monday that the department suggests the public treat the illness as if it were the flu.

“The strain that we’re looking at now is one that is causing really severe illnesses,” she said. “Best thing to do is to prevent getting it. Treat it as if you had the flu circulating in the community.”

One way, she said, is to wash hands with warm soapy water.

Additionally, McIntyre said to cover mouths when coughing and stay clear of people who are ill.