D-68 virus reported at UMass Memorial; Most of 26 patients tested have the strain.
Byline: Elaine Thompson
WORCESTER -- UMass Memorial Medical Center has more than a dozen cases of the severe respiratory virus that has sickened hundreds of children across the country and is linked to four deaths -- including the death of a 10-year-old Rhode Island girl.
St. Vincent Hospital is awaiting test results for three patients.
According to UMass Memorial, 26 patients, mostly children, tested positive between Aug. 3 and the second week of September for rhinovirus, which is in the same family as enteroviruses, and the cause of the common cold.
But most of those patients actually have Enterovirus D-68, said Dr. Christina Hermos, assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Immunology and Infectious Diseases at UMass Memorial Children's Medical Center.
"The lab reports them out as rhinovirus. But since we're seeing so much more of it and seeing patients who are sicker, if we were to get a confirmatory test we're pretty sure that most of them would test positive for Enterovirus D-68,'' she said.
Only the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a few state health laboratories can do the complex, slow testing for the EV-D68 virus.
From mid-August, when the first cases were documented in Missouri and Illinois, through Thursday, 514 people in 43 states and the District of Columbia have been confirmed to have respiratory illness caused by EV-D68, according to the CDC. The number of confirmed cases is expected to increase once the backlog of specimens from across the country is processed.
That, however, does not mean the spread of the virus is growing.
CDC is prioritizing testing of specimens from children with severe respiratory illnesses because nearly all confirmed cases of the virus this year have been among children, many of whom have asthma.
Most people who contract the virus will be affected only mildly.
More than half of the virus patients at UMass Memorial were younger than 10, including 12 who were younger than 2.
The others ranged in age from 12 to 78.
Dr. Hermos said similar to EV D-68 patients across the country, most of the patients at UMass Memorial have underlying asthma or reactive airway disease. None has required artificial respiratory support at UMass Memorial, but the ones tested were sick enough to be in the intensive care unit.
She said she has not seen any cases of paralysis or the acute neurologic syndrome that have been reported in some children in other areas that may have Enterovirus D-68.
"All of our patients are doing quite well,'' said Dr. Hermos.
St. Vincent Hospital is also reporting an uptick in enterovirus-like illnesses.
According to the CDC, there are hundreds of types of enteroviruses and rhinoviruses, and both can cause symptoms such as the common cold or severe illnesses.
"We have seen many patients with syndromes consistent with enterovirus, as we typically do this time of the year ... Three have had samples sent for testing ... All pending,'' Dr. Douglas Waite, St. Vincent's chief medical officer, replied.
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