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Summer Enterovirus Surge Sends Kids to ERs

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Outbreaks of an uncommon virus are sending hundreds of kids to emergency rooms and clinics, doctors say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says health officials in 10 states have asked for help in deciding whether something unusual and dangerous is going on. Many of the illnesses appear to be caused by enterovirus D68 or EV-D68 — a distant cousin of the polio virus — which causes respiratory symptoms and appears to be worse in children with asthma. “I don’t believe we’ve ever had an outbreak this extensive before,” says Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University. But it's also hard to tell because doctors usually don't test patients with respiratory viruses to see which one they have.

“It seems to produce illness with a more severe component (such as) difficulty breathing,” he said. “But the vast majority of these kids will get better.” Schaffner says he hopes the outbreak will start to wane within the next week or so. CDC says enteroviruses of all sorts cause about 10 to 15 million infections in the United States each year. They often show up in late summer and spread when kids start school.

Image: 13-year-old Will Cornejo is recovering from what doctors suspect is the respiratory virus,  human enterovirus 68 that has come to Colorado.
13-year-old Will Cornejo is recovering at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 from what doctors suspect is the respiratory virus, human enterovirus 68 that has come to Colorado.Cyrus McCrimmon / Denver Post via Getty Images

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