A virus that can cause severe respiratory illness in children has been identified for the first time in Mississippi. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, the first case involves a Hancock County child who was hospitalized but has since recovered.
Enterovirus D68 is usually identified just a handful of times a year around the country. But this year, since mid-August, it's sickened 213 people.
Paul Byers is deputy epidemiologist with the state department of health, which confirmed the first Mississippi case yesterday.
"There are a certain number of severe respiratory infections that have occured with this particular viral infection, and in some instances it's required hospitalization," he says. "So that's really why we are looking for this particular virus to determine what the true impact is in Mississippi, so we can work with physicans to let them know."
The enterovirus can cause mild cold or flu-like symptoms, but in some children, many with a history of asthma, it’s led to difficulty breathing or wheezing. Still, Dr. Skip Nolan with the University of Mississippi Medical Center says the virus remains relatively rare.
"If your child has a cold this time of year, they probably still have a cold," Nolan says. "And there's not any reason for undue alarm, unless the child has a history of asthma and is wheezing - and parents of children with asthma generally have pretty good insight what to do with that - or if it is a worse cold than you anticipated, it would be a good idea to see your family doctor."
Dr. Shama Shakir, a pediatrician at Coastal Family Health Center in Hancock County, says because the virus is spread like a cold, the precautions are also similar.
"Generally, with any respiratory infection, since it is airborne, we tell them to make sure to cover their mouths their when they cough, and use tissues to blow their noses," she says.
The CDC says that, as of Tuesday, cases of the virus have been confirmed in 29 other states.