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Federal health officials say they’re still checking into why so many more children than usual appear to be getting very sick from an old virus — enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says five children have died while infected with the virus and more than 664 people have been diagnosed with it across the country. It’s an unusual level of activity, but the CDC stresses that many more people will have been infected but only had sniffles — certainly not sick enough to justify testing them for the virus.
“This increase could be caused by many different viruses that are common during this time of year."
“This increase could be caused by many different viruses that are common during this time of year. EV-D68 appears to be the predominant type of enterovirus this year and is likely contributing to the increases in severe respiratory illnesses,” CDC said.
Doctors have been asked to be on the lookout for EV-D68. It’s not clear if or how the virus might cause an unusual form of muscle weakness seen in about a dozen children.
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Adding to the confusion, on-the-spot tests that hospitals and testing companies provide don’t always specify the virus, the CDC says. “EV-D68 has been previously referred to as human enterovirus 68 (or HEV-68) and human rhinovirus 87 (or HRV-87). They are all the same virus. The D stands for enterovirus species D,” it said in a statement.
“The strains of EV-D68 circulating this year are not new,” the CDC added. “CDC, working with state health departments, has identified at least three separate strains of EV-D68 that are causing infections in the United States this year; the most prominent strain is related to the strains of EV-D68 that were detected in the United States in 2012 and 2013,” it added.
“The strains of EV-D68 circulating this year are not new."
There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses, and they infect 10 million to 15 million people every year, with tens of thousands sick enough to go to the hospital.
“It is common for multiple strains of the same enterovirus type to be co-circulating in the same year. Respiratory illnesses can be caused by many different viruses and have similar symptoms. Not all respiratory illnesses occurring now are due to EV-D68.”
There's no specific drug for the virus, or vaccine to prevent it. CDC says handwashing is the best way to protect against all sorts of viruses.