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Health officials with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed four cases of Enterovirus EV-D68 in West Virginia.
According to the DHHR, West Virginia is the 23rd state known to have the virus circulating. The virus has caused a total of 160 people to become ill across 22 states between mid-August through September 19, and those numbers are increasing.
The West Virginia Office of Laboratory Services and the Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) Laboratory sent 32 specimen samples from Calhoun, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Mercer, Raleigh, Wirt, and Wood counties to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmatory testing. Of the specimens submitted, four have been confirmed as cases of EV-D68 in children in Wood, Wirt and Greenbrier counties.
EV-D68 causes respiratory illnesses and can be found in respiratory secretions, such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum. Mild symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. Those with asthma or a history of wheezing may experience difficulty breathing.
“Enterovirus D68 infections are thought to be less common than other types of enteroviruses, but confirmation of the virus being found in West Virginia was not surprising,” said Dr. Letitia Tierney, state health officer and commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health. “EV-D68 was first identified in 1962 in California and is not frequently reported. EV-D68 is less studied than other viruses, however, according to CDC, it likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches contaminated surfaces.”
Tierney said West Virginians should pay close attention to their respiratory status as difficulty breathing and wheezing can be a symptom. There are no specific treatments for people with respiratory illness caused by EV-D68. For mild symptoms, over the counter medications may be useful. Others with a more severe respiratory illness caused by EV-D68, a person may need to be hospitalized and receive intensive support therapy. There are no anti-viral medications currently available for those infected with EV-D68 nor are there any vaccines to prevent infections of EV-D68. Since people with asthma are at greater risk for respiratory illnesses, they should regularly take medicines and follow guidance to maintain control of their illness during this time.
Tierney advises residents to follow standard hygiene practices of washing hands with soap and water frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and to get a flu shot this year.