Health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that at least three West Virginia counties have been infected with Enterovirus 68 (EV-D68), a rare and potentially life threatening respiratory disease that is generally isolated to young children.
Though dozens of suspected specimens were sent for testing — from multiple West Virginia counties — samples from the West Virginia counties of Wood, Greenbrier and Wirt were the only ones to test positive for the virus.
The results mark the first confirmed cases of EV-D68 in the Mountain State and show that the unchecked pathogen is in fact spreading across the nation.
According to health officials, children less than 5 years old and children with asthma appear to be most at risk for the illness, although cases involving adults with asthma and immunosuppression have also been reported.
Medical professionals say that the infection can vary from mild to severe and that initial symptoms are similar to those for the common cold, including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever.
As the disease progresses, more serious symptoms may occur, including difficulty breathing as in pneumonia, reduced alertness, a reduction in urine production, and dehydration, and may lead to respiratory failure.
Like all enteroviruses, it can cause variable skin rashes, abdominal pain and soft stools. In two California children, it was associated with paralysis of one or more limbs reaching peak severity within 48 hours of onset. “Recovery of motor function was poor at 6-month follow-up,” stated one medical worker who assessed the infected following their recovery.
EV-D68 was first discovered in California, in 1962; however, only a handful of people were ever infected with the disease over the next half-century.
In August of this year, however, the virus was discovered in several sick children who were living mostly in Midwestern states.
A month later, at least 145 cases have been suspected in the United States, stretching from Montana to West Virginia, and an additional 18 cases have been confirmed in Canada.
Officials at the CDC in Atlanta say there is no vaccine against the infection and that many infected people do not have symptoms — which poses a great difficulty in preventing the disease from spreading.
Health officials say some of the best ways to protect against the disease is by “Washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers,” other ways include “avoiding close contact, such as touching and shaking hands, with people who are sick, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.”
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