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Human Enterovirus (EV-D68), first seen in 1962, is related to the common cold but within hours those affected can become severely ill.  The virus is likely to be passed from person-to-person via coughing, sneezing or contaminated surfaces.  For children with asthma or previous respiratory troubles, the virus can quickly become life-threatening.  Until recently, less than 100 cases had been reported.  But, at the start of the school year, this rare virus began sweeping the Midwest sending dozens of children to the hospital with breathing difficulties.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was notified last month when hospitals in Kansas City, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois reported a significant increase in children brought to emergency rooms and admitted to the hospital.  Patients often complained of a rapid onset of cold-like symptoms and then suddenly are unable to breathe.  To date, Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City has reportedly treated nearly 500 cases in young children.  Since the initial outbreak, nearly a dozen states – Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Utah – have reported outbreaks of the virus. There have been no deaths reported.  No adults have been diagnosed with the illness.

CDC officials are concerned that the large number of seriously ill patients being reported could be “just the tip ofthe iceberg in terms of severe cases.”  With no vaccine available and no specific medicine approved to treat it, doctors can only treat the symptoms – helping kids breathe and trying to keep their airways open.

Until the CDC can better understand the virus, the best way to prevent EV-D68 is the same as many other viruses – with good hygiene, including:

  • Regularly and thoroughly washing hands with soap and water
  • Limiting time with those who are sick
  • Staying home when ill
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoiding kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick
  • Frequently disinfecting touched surfaces such as toys and doorknobs

It is also important for parents to know the warning signs:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing that just won’t stop
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Fever
  • Body and muscles aches
  • Rash

It is also important to make sure children with asthma are on their medicines and keeping up with their medication routine.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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