Doctors at OU Children's hospital are sending a warning as a rare respiratory virus spreads across the country. More than 500 children are sickened in Missouri alone. Now, doctors here want parents to take precautions.
Right now, health officials are testing patient samples to see if the same illness that has sickened hundreds of kids around the country has made its way to Oklahoma.
“I know I was scared. I remember thinking that I was going to die,” said patient Will Cornejo.
Cornejo was hospitalized in Denver after becoming infected by the virus last week.
“He was white as a ghost. His lips were blue. He was completely unconscious. We weren't sure he was going to make it,” said Will's mother, Jennifer Cornejo.
So far, 10 states including Oklahoma have contacted the CDC for help investigating clusters of the respiratory virus. It's called Enterovirus 68 or EV-D68, and while there have been no confirmed cases in Oklahoma yet, doctors at OU Children's Hospital wants parents to start preventative measures now.
“Cough, congestion, running nose, fever, muscle ache, and then wheezing are the predominant ones that's causing kids to come into the emergency department,” said OU Children's emergency room physician, Curtis Knoles.
Children with underlying medical conditions could have more severe symptoms. Doctors say prevention is the only defense. There are no available vaccines.
“It's important that if your child is sick also, you recognize that they have fever, diarrhea, congestion, cough, runny nose,” said Knoles. “If they are in school, be respectful and keep them home until they're better.”
The virus has sickened more than 1,000 children across the Midwest, most of those less than 5-years-old.
Doctors at OU Children's say this past August, 115 patients tested positive for the more common and less serious strain of Enterovirus. That's compared to 75 around the same time last year.
“This is a self-limited disease. It will get better on its own, so relatively few deaths will occur with proper identification and treatment,” said Knoles.
Experts say the start of school is likely spreading the disease faster, so washing hands and sanitizing common surfaces is important.