2 children positive for severe respiratory illness

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SEATTLE (AP) — Two children recently treated at a Seattle hospital tested positive for enterovirus D-68, a severe respiratory illness, health officials said Friday.

Confirmation of these cases are "the tip of the iceberg," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, chief of communicable disease and epidemiology at Public Health - Seattle and King counties. With the illness appearing locally, Duchin said it's likely to appear in other areas of the state.

"We're seeing low-level circulation related to D68, but we can't predict how much this will contribute to the mix and lead to hospitalizations," Duchin said. "We're early in the process."

Duchin said D68 is one of a variety of respiratory viruses that have led to hospitalizations. The virus spreads similarly to the common cold, through sneezing or coughing or touching contaminated surfaces.

Since it tends to impact children with asthma more severely, parents of these children should have actions plans that include medications and consulting with a physician. He said there are key things all parents can do to help protect their children: hand-washing, flu vaccines and avoiding people who are sick during the flu season.

The two confirmed cases at Seattle Children's Hospital, one each from King and Snohomish counties, made Washington the 20th state in the U.S. with enterovirus D-68, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As many as 153 people in at least 18 states had confirmed cases of the virus.

The children in the Seattle cases had pre-existing health conditions, but they improved and were discharged earlier this week, said Danielle Zerr, division chief, Pediatric Infectious Disease at Children's. Health officials refused to release the ages of the children but said in cases across the country, D68 has impacted a wide range of ages, from infants to teens.

Enteroviruses commonly occur, especially at this time of year, but EV-D68 outbreaks have resulted in children requiring hospitalizations with breathing difficulties and severe asthma, county health officials said.

"This is not a serious virus for most people," said Dr. Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist for communicable diseases at the Washington Department of Health. "But it can be more severe for people with underlying conditions."

Since the beginning of September, more than 60 children have screened positive for respiratory illnesses at Seattle Children's Hospital, but only a small number were suspected of having D68, Kerr said.

Lundquist said the state has sent 28 specimens to the CDC to test for enterovirus D68. Of those 28 cases, 14 have come back and only the two were positive, he said. They are still waiting for the other 14, which include cases from 11 Washington counties. It can take one to two weeks to get the results from the CDC, he said.

There is no vaccine for this virus. No children in the U.S. have died from enterovirus D68 related illnesses, the CDC said.

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