The U.S. has recently been plagued by the enterovirus. Who is getting most affected by this? Unfortunately most of the victims are American children. What is the enterovirus and why is it spreading?

The New York Times reports on the enterovirus.

Federal health officials say the spread of this virus has been unlike any other. This week the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reported that at least 500 children have been infected so far, including a few casualties. Experts say the number of patients is actually probably much higher than this.

Health officials say the majority of the cases are children.

What should parents look out for? Children with difficulty breathing, chest pain, wheezing or blue lips are often facing the virus. These are signs that the child requires immediate medical treatment for it. Children with asthma and other chronic lung conditions are particularly vulnerable to enterovirus.

An expert told The Times, “I think the most surprising aspect of it is how severe it is, particularly the symptoms in kids. In most cases it manifests itself as a cold or maybe a mild case of the flu, and it probably got diagnosed as such. I believe in a lot of cases it’s still no different than a severe cold or the flu, even during this outbreak. It is evolving. The strains that are circulating now are basically more transmissible.”  

Fox news also reported on the enterovirus in children.

What makes this strain of the virus unique? 
 It is a respiratory strain that is particularly sickening to young children with asthma, leading to numerous hospitalizations. And it has even been linked to four deaths.

Why haven’t doctors and health officials been able to stop it from spreading? When will this issue end? “Enteroviruses are most common in the fall and generally tend to peter out by November. We don’t know if this strain will follow the usual fall cycle or last into the winter months,” according to Fox news.

Are there lasting effects?

What about the neurological symptoms or lasting effects on the brain? 
 Polio is also an enterovirus, but this strain is a non-polio enterovirus. It is possible; past enteroviruses have had neurological manifestations. This particular strain seems to be able to travel to the brain but has rarely caused muscle weakness.

Many are also wondering why or how this strain has spread so fast?

Fox says, “It is likely that it has changed or mutated to become more transmissible, but this hasn’t been proven. Enteroviruses change frequently over time. It is also possible that the virus has been around for longer than we know.” Experts are urging parents to keep their children at home if they are sick rather than sending them to school and spreading the virus further.

Fox news reports on one little girl’s particularly upsetting fight against enterovirus. The little girl recently succumbed to the effects of the virus. She was only ten years old.

A fifth grader died less than one day after she was rushed to the hospital for breathing problems. State and local health officials said she died from a staph infection, but also tested positive for Enterovirus D68. Her medical team was shocked by her tragic and sudden death.

Federal health officials have taken a keen interest on this issue, because of the vast number of cases that have surfaced. Another reason why it is gaining steam is because the virus seems to have similarities to polio, characteristics pertaining to paralysis.

A portion of the children children who have tested positive for the virus have also shown polio-like symptoms including limb weakness or paralysis. Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado have seen ten children with those symptoms so far, and health officials in Los Angeles reported a similar case this week.

“We don't know the answer why at this time this virus appears to be so virulent,” said Dr. Aldrovandi of Children's Hospital Los Angeles. “Doctors cannot say for sure whether the virus is to blame for those polio-like symptoms including paralysis, but it's spreading and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts more cases will be confirmed as they continue testing cases of respiratory illnesses,” according to CBS.

Gerry Oginski
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