Labs unable to determine if sick St. Mary’s kids had Enterovirus EV-D68

Posted at 10:24 AM, Sep 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-12 13:19:35-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The test results are in, but questions still remain after a dozen children were treated at St. Mary's Hospital for acute respiratory illness. The children were tested to determine if they had Enterovirus EV-D68.

"As of 8 a.m. Thursday the Commonwealth is still not able to confirm which of two respiratory viruses that have showed up positive on their screening tests for all eight of our first eight patient samples is the implicated virus in our patients. They are conducting further testing," Bon Secours spokeswoman Charlotte Perkins said. "In addition, samples from four of our sickest patients have been transmitted to the CDC labs in Atlanta for further testing."

Dr. Diane Woolard with the Virginia Department of Health explained why it is taking so long to get the results, adding that it may be weeks before the results are in.

"It's very difficult to do laboratory testing," Woolard said, alluding to the fact this is a rare disease.

"They [CDC] have a backlog and it takes a while to get the testing done and then the results."

Meanwhile parents and learning center's like Primrose in Midlothian are left in a holding pattern --wondering if they need to take their sanitizing procedures to the next level.

"We have sanitizer out front we have Sanitizer in the classroom" Deborah Peery, franchise owner of Primrose said.

Peery so far has had no student contract an upper respiratory disease this school year.

Yesterday, St. Mary's confirmed all 11 children treated at the hospital for acute respiratory illness were cleared to return home. A twelfth patient who arrived at the hospital Tuesday night with similar symptoms was treated and released.

The hospital told reporters in a press conference that they have continued to see an uptick in patients but that the upper respiratory infections are nowhere near the degree they saw earlier in the week.

"Wash your hand and don't panic," Dr. Sofia Teferi with St. Mary's said.

Doctors say they would treat a D-68 patient the same way they would treat a patient with another upper respiratory virus.

Doctors emphasize so far no child has died as a result of the disease in other states.

Doctors at VCU Medical Center and HCA Virginia have reported an increase in patients with symptoms of respiratory illness. Neither hospital has confirmed those patients have Enterovirus EV-D68.

More than 10 states around the Midwest and Southeast have reported seeing similarly high numbers of hospitalizations for children with severe respiratory illnesses. The virus has sent more than 30 children a day to a Kansas City, Missouri, hospital, where about 15 percent of the youngsters were placed in intensive care, health officials said.

Doctors say they think the increase is due to a bug called Enterovirus D68, an uncommon type of enterovirus that seems to be exacerbating breathing problems in children with asthma.

Six states -- Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Iowa -- have already confirmed cases of EV-D68. Yet even in those states, not all samples came back positive for this specific type of enterovirus.

Nineteen of the 25 samples sent from Children's Hospital Colorado were EV-D68, said Dr. Christine Nyquist, medical director of infection control. Kentucky submitted 10 samples; five came back positive. In Missouri, 19 of 22 specimens sent to the CDC were confirmed to be EV-D68.

The problem is that there are more than 60 enteroviruses that are known to infect humans, according to the CDC; these viruses cause an estimated 10 million to 15 million illnesses each year. Symptoms can range from the sniffles to stomach issues to a severe respiratory infection.

The average healthy adult gets two to three colds a year, the CDC says; children usually get more. They're more at risk because their immune systems haven't had a chance to build up immunity to these common viral infections.

The CDC doesn't require state health departments to track these types of infections, since they are usually dealt with at home and patients recover with a little TLC. So getting a firm count of the number of people infected -- or what other states may be at risk -- for EV-D68 is difficult.

"CDC is watching this situation closely," the public health agency's website states.

This is a developing story.

(The CNN Wire contributed to this report)