First Montana case of Enterovirus confirmed in Yellowstone County

KXLH 9 News

BILLINGS — The outbreak of a respiratory virus that has plagued children in 12 states now has a confirmed case in Montana.

Jon Ebelt, information officer for the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services, confirmed Wednesday that the Enterovirus strain EV-D68 was “laboratory confirmed.”  

Ebelt said the infected patient is a child under the age of 10 in Yellowstone County.

That strain is one of more than 100 strains of the virus, but Ebelt said it is the one that is consistent with the national report of the outbreak.

Information on the confirmed case was released Wednesday.

Lewis & Clark City-County Health Department public health nurse Mike Henderson said, “Most Enterovirus infections cause very mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all, so most people won’t present to the doctor, there won’t be lab tests or investigations done on that sort of thing.”

Henderson says the recent rash of Enterovirus D68 has led to many children being hospitalized due to breathing issues.

Those clusters are being followed by the Centers for Disease Control, which in turn keeps health departments informed on what’s developing.

Henderson explained, “That information is sent to state health departments, that distribute it to local health departments, and we in turn distribute those alerts to the local community.”

That means making sure the information gets out to physicians, pharmacies, and school nurses, among others. In turn, they keep tabs on any reports coming in that may need further investigation.

Many of the children who are being hospitalized have a history of asthma or wheezing, says Dr. Christine Nyquist, medical director of infection control at Children’s Hospital Colorado. EV-D68 seems to exacerbate any breathing problems that aren’t under control with medication.

Children’s Hospital Colorado has seen a 12% to 15% increase in emergency room visits and admissions this month compared with the same time frame last year, Nyquist said. The hospital sent 25 samples to the CDC from patients with respiratory illness. Around 75% were confirmed to be EV-D68.

On Monday, the CDC confirmed that 11 samples it tested from children who had been hospitalized in Chicago tested positive for EV-D68. Nineteen of the 22 specimens sent to the CDC from Kansas City also showed signs of the virus, meaning there is likely a regional outbreak.

The Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed that EV-D68 cases have been identified in that state. Officials are hearing of illnesses across the state, they say, though there is not a firm count of how many people have been infected.

EV-D68 was first identified in the 1960s, and there have been fewer than 100 reported cases since that time. But it’s possible that the relatively low number is due to the fact that the CDC doesn’t require health departments to track EV-D68.

“It’s one that we don’t know as much about as we would like,” Schuchat said.

EV-D68 was seen last year in the United States and this year in various parts of the world. Over the years, clusters have been reported in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona and various countries, including the Philippines, Japan and the Netherlands. Health officials don’t know why the enterovirus has created such a problem this year.

“That’s the scary part — the unpredictability, I think,” Nyquist said.

The unusually high number of hospitalizations reported could be “just the tip of the iceberg in terms of severe cases,” said Mark Pallansch, a virologist and director of the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases. As states continue to send samples to the CDC, the public health agency will get a clearer picture of the number of viral infections being caused.

In the meantime, parents should be on the lookout for signs that their child is having difficulty breathing. Other common symptoms of the virus include coughing, fever and rash.

“It’s important to make sure your children with asthma are on their medicines and keeping up with their medication routine,” Schuchat said.

Like other enteroviruses, EV-D68 appears to spread through close contact with infected people.

To reduce the risk of infection, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, and avoid contact with people who are sick. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as toys and doorknobs, and stay home when you feeling under the weather to avoid infecting others.

One thought on “First Montana case of Enterovirus confirmed in Yellowstone County

  1. I agree, Funny Farmer.

    I’m of the opinion, that this virus, and others, were dropped on us from above. Of course, another possibility is that the hordes of wet-back scum carried it over, and Obama sent the sickest of them to the furthest corners of the country to make sure their infections are spread far and wide.

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