Confirmed enterovirus cases increase in Connecticut

Washington – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday there are now 13 confirmed cases in Connecticut of Enterovirus-D68, a flu-like illness.

The Connecticut Department of Public health said the patients, who were all children, have recovered.

The Department of Public Health did not disclose where the positive samples were taken, but said they were all from pediatric patients treated at three Connecticut hospitals. The confirmed cases are likely a fraction of the cases of the disease in the state.

“We can’t disclose where these samples came from,” said Department of Public Health spokesman William Gerrish, citing state law.

But on Monday, the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center said three of the six samples it had sent the CDC tested positive for the disease, which is caused by a particular strain of enterovirus. Earlier this month, Yale-New Haven Hospital confirmed the first case of Enterovirus-D68  in the state.

The D68 enterovirus causes symptoms ranging from mild — fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough and muscle aches — to severe, including wheezing and difficulty breathing, the CDC says. Children, especially those with asthma, are more likely to become ill and more likely to develop serious complications because they do not yet have immunity from previous exposures to the viruses.

The CDC says it has a huge backlog of samples from hospitals and does not know how many cases of Enterovirus-D68, or EV-D68, there really are in Connecticut or the nation.  The CDC’s testing has confirmed 277  cases nationally — but that’s considered a fraction of the cases —  and confirmed cases have been found in nearly all of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The CDC has asked the Children’s Medical Center to stop sending samples because of its backlog, said Monica Buchanan, spokeswoman for the medical center.

“The CDC is prioritizing testing of specimens from children with severe respiratory illness,” said CDC spokeswoman Karen Mason. “There are likely many children affected with milder forms of illness. Of all the specimens from across the United States tested by the CDC lab, about half have tested positive.”

Enterovirus-D68 was first identified in 1962 and since then has been reported rarely. There is no vaccine or cure for EV-D68, and it is generally treated like flu.

“We already knew there was a strong possibility it was here,” said Nicholas Bennett, medical director of infectious diseases and immunology at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. “We sent in samples to help the CDC track the virus and its spread across the nation.”

The CDC is studying whether there is a link between Enterovirus and paralysis after neurological problems were found in some children in Colorado suffering from the virus.

Bennett said there have been no cases of paralysis at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. He also said an initial rush of suspected cases of the disease “has died down, but not stopped.”

The latest outbreak seems to have begun in the Midwest. In August a children’s hospital in Kansas City, Mo., and one in Chicago notified the CDC of increases in pediatric patients hospitalized with severe respiratory illness, including some admitted to pediatric intensive care units. EV-D68 was identified in 19 of 22 specimens from Kansas City and in 11 of 14 specimens from Chicago.

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