(CNN) — Since mid-August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed more than 100 cases of Enterovirus D68 in 12 states: Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, New York and Oklahoma.
Yet the real number of severe respiratory illnesses caused by this virus is probably even higher, the CDC says.
Enteroviruses are very common, especially in the early fall. The CDC estimates that 10 million to 15 million infections occur in the United States each year. These viruses usually present like the common cold; symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose and a cough.
Most people recover without any treatment. But Enterovirus D68 appears to be exacerbating breathing problems in children who have asthma.
The virus is hard to track, as many enteroviruses cause similar symptoms and hospitals generally do not test for specific types. But the CDC has asked hospitals across the country to send in samples if workers suspect that Enterovirus D68 has caused a patient’s severe respiratory illness.
Alabama, Indiana and Oklahoma are the latest to join the growing list of states with confirmed cases, health officials say.
Seven of 24 specimens sent to the CDC from Oklahoma hospitals and laboratories have tested positive for Enterovirus D68, the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced Tuesday. The state has seen an increase in pediatric admissions at hospitals in its central region.
So why all the concern now?
What’s unusual at the moment is the high number of hospitalizations.
The virus has sent more than 30 children a day to a Kansas City, Missouri, hospital, where about 15% of the youngsters were placed in intensive care, officials said.
“It’s worse in terms of scope of critically ill children who require intensive care. I would call it unprecedented,” said Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, a director for infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital, where about 475 children were recently treated.
“I’ve practiced for 30 years in pediatrics, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” she said.
What’s special about this particular type of enterovirus?
An analysis by the CDC showed at least 30 of the Kansas City children tested positive for EV-D68, Missouri health officials said.
It’s a type of enterovirus that’s uncommon, but not new.
It was first identified in the 1960s and there have been fewer than 100 reported cases since that time. But it’s possible, Pallansch said, that the relatively low number of reports might be because EV-D68 is hard to identify.
EV-D68 was seen last year in the United States and this year in various parts of the world. Over the years, clusters have been reported in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and various countries including the Philippines, Japan and the Netherlands.
Experts say they don’t know why it’s flared up this time around.
“Why one virus or another crops up in one part of the country or another part of the country from one year to the next is inexplicable,” said William Schaffner, head of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University. “It’s a mystery to me.”
What are the symptoms?
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Another post (this pressed will follow shortly): get informed, be your family and yourselves best friends, no matter what the downplayer may want you to believe; then you can be level headed instead of fearing, and in denial! ”