A rare virus that has sickened dozens of children across the country has been reported in San Diego, health officials confirmed Thursday.
Three children from San Diego County and one child visiting from Ventura were hospitalized for a respiratory illness, which turned out to be Enterovirus D68, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA.)
The children, who ranged in age from 2 to 13, were treated earlier this month at Rady Children's Hospital and have since been released, health officials said.
These are the first Enterovirus D68 cases reported in California. More cases are expected in the coming weeks.
Symptoms of enterovirus are similar to the common cold, including fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing and body aches. In severe cases, children could be wheezing and have difficulty breathing. This is when parents should take their children to the emergency room.
Otherwise, health officials said parents have no reason to panic.
“This is for all intents and purposes the common cold,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County Public Health Officer. “The majority of people who get this -- children, infants, teens, even adults -- will not have any severe symptoms, will not need to be seen by their doctor.”
Rady Children's Hospital has seen a 20 percent increase in emergency room visits from kids with respiratory issues, according to Dr. John Bradley, Director of Infectious Diseases. However, Bradley said there is an influx of enterovirus cases every late summer and early fall. There are more than 100 types of enterovirus.
“This particular enterovirus (EV-D68), which causes respiratory track symptoms, is not one that we usually see. So why are we seeing this this year? We don’t know,” he said.
“This virus has probably been here for a month or two already,” he added.
Health officials said kids with asthma are most at-risk for complications from Enterovirus D68. Three of the four California children who contracted the virus suffered from asthma.
To put parents' minds at ease, Bradley said Enterovirus D68 is not life-threatening. Also, the cases in San Diego were not as severe as cases reported in other states.
“In the Midwest, there were kids who couldn’t breathe, who needed to go on breathing machines, ventilators,” he said. “None of our cases in San Diego have even made it to a ventilator. They’ve all been managed successfully with a little extra oxygen and bronchodialation.”
How To Avoid Transmission of Enterovirus:
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces.
- Stay home when you’re sick.
(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/California Department of Health)