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Health, Science, Environment

Respiratory Virus Confirmed by Hospital in St. Louis Area

Dr. Farouk
Flickr Creative Commons

A relatively rare virus strain that can cause respiratory problems in children has been confirmed in St. Louis. It has sent dozens to pediatric intensive care units in Kansas City and Chicago.

Late last week, St. Louis Children’s Hospital ran in-house tests and confirmed Enterovirus-68, or EV-D68, in a small sample of three patients who had been admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit.

Dr. Ericka Hayes of the hospital’s pediatric infectious disease division said it’s likely the actual number of their patients stricken with EV-D68 is much higher. Over the past weeks, the hospital has seen more than twice the number of patients who test positive on a general rhinovirus/enterovirus test than they did in August of last year.

Now, Hayes said the hospital will test some of those patients for the EV-D68 strain to determine the scope of the outbreak.

“We’ve been 10 to 20 percent busier, as far as volumes, in our emergency room,” Hayes said. “We were going through a lot of albuterol, which meant we were seeing a lot of kids with respiratory problems.”

Cardinal Glennon Medical Center has seen an uptick in cases as well. According to a spokesperson, about 100 patients a week admitted for breathing problems, that’s a 50 percent increase from the same time last year. The hospital sent ‘a handful’ of samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing last week, and is awaiting confirmation.

According to the CDC, EV-D68 symptoms are similar to the common cold. The virus can escalate into respiratory illness, especially if the patient has a history of breathing problems or asthma. There are no available vaccines.

The CDC confirmed that samples from 30 patients in Kansas City and Chicago tested positive for EV-D68. They are now looking at ‘clusters’ of cases in other Midwestern cities.

There have been no reported deaths due to EV-D68 to date. 

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