Enterovirus D68 hospitalizes 14 kids so far in California

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The number of California children who have been hospitalized with the Enterovirus D68 has risen to 14, according to the California Department of Public Health.

The children, all 15 and under, were admitted to pediatric intensive care units after experiencing difficulty breathing and wheezing. All are in various stages of recovery, health officials said.

As of October 1, one case was confirmed in Los Angeles County,  one in Long Beach (which has its own health department), five in San Diego County, two in Alameda County and one each in Riverside, Ventura, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Solano Counties, according to state epidemiologist Gil Chavez.

State health officials asked local counties to report suspected cases of EV-D68, as it is referred to, in September after it cropped up in numerous states across the country. They say they have received more than 180 specimens from around the state, and have tested about 140.

"We are pleased the number of new confirmed cases in the stats is not growing as rapidly as it has elsewhere," Chavez said. "Testing of additional cases continues and we expect to see additional cases."

There is no specific treatment for the virus, nor is there a vaccine for it.

EV-D68 causes mild to severe respiratory illness, including sneezing, cough, fever, runny nose, wheezing, difficulty breathing and body aches. The disease likely spreads through coughs and sneezes, or from touching contaminated surfaces.

Chavez  said there are about 100 types of enterovirus and the season is usually late summer, early fall. This subset, EV-D68, is rare, he said.

"For every case of EV-D68 there are many other kids that have milder infections," he said. "It's important for people to put into perspective. Although some kids unfortunately end up hospitalized, the great majority of kids with this infection do okay."

Of those who contract EV-D68, kids with asthma are at a higher risk of getting a severe respiratory illness, according to health officials.

L.A. County’s one case involves a child who fell ill in late August and then developed acute limb weakness or flaccid paralysis, according to county and state health officials. Local authorities say the child has regained some mobility.

Separately, state health officials reported Friday that there have been 35 cases of unexplained paralysis, called acute flaccid paralysis and spinal cord involvement, since 2012 in California. Those patients ranged in age from 5 months to 73 years old, said Dr. Carol Glaser, chief of encephalitis and the special investigations section in the state's Department of Public Health. 

In three of them, EV-D68 was detected in their respiratory specimens. But health officials said they don't know when those patients might have had the virus, or whether it is connected to their paralysis.

Only two of the 35 patients have fully recovered their mobility, said Glaser. 

Health experts recommend hygiene as the best way to avoid getting or spreading enterovirus:

Additional information about EV-D68 can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Enterovirus D68 page.