OK Health Officials Address Spike In Respiratory Illness

Monday, September 8th 2014, 5:16 pm
By: News 9

An emergency room physician at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center addressed the recent spike in respiratory illness in Oklahoma children at a press conference on Monday.

Concerns continue to grow around the nation as a respiratory virus sends hundreds of children to the hospital in Missouri and in other states across the Midwest. In Missouri, some of the illnesses have been linked to the Enterovirus EV-D68.

Oklahoma is just one of 10 states that has asked the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) for help investigating what has caused the spike.

A spokesperson told the media on Monday that from Aug. 1 to Aug. 28 the hospital has seen an increase in hospitalizations due to respiratory viruses, specifically 115 patients have tested positive for Rhinovirus enterovirus, up from 75 in 2013 over the same period. So far, Oklahoma does not have any confirmed cases of EV-D68.

“Enterovirus D68 is part of a family of enterovirus that we see commonly during the summer cold season. D68 has been around since the 1960s, and causes some of the same symptoms as the other enteroviruses,” said Dr. Curtis Knoles.

9/8/2014 Related Story: Central Oklahoma Seeing Spike In Hospital Visits For Respiratory Illness

According to Knoles, the D68 strain differs from other types on enterovirus in the fact that it has caused more upper respiratory symptoms and wheezing in patients.

Identifying EV-D68 can be tricky. Knoles says mild symptoms of the virus can be diagnosed as an upper respiratory infection, and that identifying it as EV-D68 can only be done by the state department of health in conjunction with the CDC.

“The best way to deal with the enterovirus, like all other viruses, is prevention,” Knoles said.

Good prevention practices include better and more frequent hand washing practices, cleaning and disinfecting solid surfaces, avoiding contact with sick people, etc.

If you think your child might be sick, Knoles tells parents to monitor their breathing. If they are breathing fast or labored, or if they are wheezing with audible sound when they breathe in or out, that could be a sign that something is going on, especially if the child has an underlying medical condition such as Cerebral Palsy or Asthma.

“{Children younger than] five seem to the most affected. However, kids all the way through adolescence can be affected. The older you are, though, it seems the milder the symptoms. The bodies are better able to handle the symptoms and deal with it on its own,” said Knoles.

There is no treatment available for EV-D68 and no vaccines. The virus can only be dealt with by supportive care. But, according to Knoles, with the right care and proper identification, the body will heal itself in time. Only a few deaths have been reported to date.