RICHMOND, Va. -- The Chief Medical Officer of Pediatrics for Bon Secours Virginia Health System said they should know by Wednesday if Enterovirus EV-D68, a highly contagious virus, has spread to Central Virginia. At least 10 children were admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at St. Mary's Hospital this week with acute respiratory illness.
VCU Medical Center has now confirmed an increasing number of young patients with upper respiratory sickness and asthmatic distress as well.
Although enteroviruses are common, doctors have called this an unusual strain. The Centers for Disease Control reported 12 states have asked for help dealing with this virus.
The virus starts off like a common cold, but some patients develop a severe cough and a rash. Some patients may experience difficulty breathing. While you cannot run to the doctor for every runny nose, doctors said if your child develops a fever or rash, or if they are having any breathing difficulty, you should seek medical attention.
Doctors said there are things you can do to help keep your children healthy:
- Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Avoid hugging or sharing items with people who are sick.
- Parents can start disinfecting toys and doorknobs as added precaution.
Six-year-old Grant Lugar, like his brother and sister back home, was under the weather Tuesday. His father brought him to see his pediatrician for a checkup.
"He had 102 degree fever, sick to his stomach and sore throat... So just making sure if he has a virus or something it doesn't turn bad," said Jay Lugar, Grant's father.
The Lugars, like so many other parents in Central Virginia and across the country, are making the trip to the pediatrician's office, over fears of the Enterovirus-D68 outbreak that has hit the Midwest.
"We had several children go to the ICU and were pretty ill coming from the ER, so that has been a little bit different and kind of mirrors a little bit of what they have been seeing in the Midwest," Dr. Sofia Teferi with St. Mary's Hospital said. "Any child that we are suspecting may have this illness we are being very careful how we treat them and then we are also getting specimens and sending them with cooperation with the health department."
Those specimens will take days to confirm whether the ill children inside area hospitals have the virus that has sickened dozens of kids in at least ten states.
"If your child has a little bit of a runny nose mild fever and they're school age they should be alright. If they're having trouble breathing, they're not drinking for you, they're not hydrated, they can barely speak because they are having trouble breathing then they need to be seen," Dr. Teferi added. "I imagine this is going to blow over hopefully, but again containment with good hygiene and making sure we can stop the spread if that's what's going to happen is going to be key for the community."
Health officials said children with compromised immune systems, such as asthma sufferers are at greater risk. Adults usually do not contract EV-D68.
"By the time you become an adult you've already had this virus so you're not as susceptible to it," Dr. Teferi said.
Area school systems have not made any changes, but are all working closely with local health departments. They will continue to promote good hygiene and monitor this situation closely.
The Virginia Department of Health said it was monitoring the situation. It added there may be an increased risk in children with asthma, so parents should watch them closely and have rescue medications on hand.