Virus hits Colorado and Midwest, sending children to hospital

Sarah Kaplan --- The Washington Post 

Preston Sheldon’s mother said he seemed fine when she took him to preschool on Tuesday. Minutes later, according to News Channel 4, the Kansas City mom got a call that her 3-year-old was having trouble breathing.

“You could see his ribs and his stomach was pushing out really hard. I thought it was an asthma attack,” Pam Sheldon told the station.

Jennifer Cornejo of Lone Tree in Colorado told News7 in Denver her 13-year-old son William had cold symptoms that developed overnight into a life-threatening respiratory illness. “He was in really bad shape,” she said. “He came really close to death. He was unconscious at our house and white as a ghost with blue lips — he just passed out.” 

“My head started hurting,” William said. “And after that my lungs started closing up. It felt different.”

Hospitals in Colorado, Missouri and potentially eight other states are admitting hundreds of children for treatment of an uncommon but severe respiratory virus.

The virus, called Enterovirus D68, causes similar symptoms to a summer cold or asthma: a runny nose, fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. But the illness can quickly escalate, and there are no vaccines or antiviral medications to prevent or treat it.

Though only Missouri has confirmed cases of EV-D68, cases with similar symptoms have been reported throughout the Midwest and South.

According to news reports, Missouri, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and Oklahoma have sent samples to the Centers for Disease Control for identification. Hospitals usually aren’t able to perform testing required to identify specific types of enteroviruses on their own.

This particular outbreak is associated with an unusually high number of hospitalizations — Children’s Hospital Colorado has reported more than 900 cases since Aug. 18, while Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., has seen about 30 children per day with the illness, the Denver Post reported. 

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