RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) confirmed Wednesday afternoon that several Central Virginia children hospitalized last week tested positive for Enterovirus EV-D68.
The news comes after doctors at VCU Medical Center and HCA Virginia reported an increase in patients with symptoms of respiratory illness last week. However, neither of the hospitals has been able to confirm the patients had the enterovirus.
Then health department officials announced Wednesday afternoon that CDC lab tests confirmed seven of the ten patients tested positive for Enterovirus EV-D68. The three children who did not test positive for enterovirus were found to have other common respiratory viruses.
The children affected included pre-school and school age children with a median age of six. The children, who were from Central Virginia, were treated at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond.
The VDH typically does not identify hospitals in situation like this, but said this is a unique set of circumstances, and that they had the hospital’s permission.
The health department is waiting on results from 28 other reported cases from across the state.
The VDH sent samples from 38 patients to the CDC, including the ten specimens from St. Mary’s. They are still waiting to hear back on the results of 28 other patients. There has been no word on when those results might come back, but the VDH reiterated that once the CDC receives a specimen, it could take weeks to test.
Most of the children affected have a history of asthma, and most children who have Enterovirus D68 do not show signs of a fever, so any evidence of breathing problems should lead to medical treatment.
CBS 6 spoke with one parent who was taking her son to the Emergency Room at St. Mary's on Wednesday as a precaution.
"I'm hoping for the same result I got yesterday, which is infected years and throat, but we're not sure not hat it's gone down here," said Sara Morse.
Morse said the recent news has her and other parents being extra cautious.
The health department has been working with hospitals across the state as the CDC investigates suspected clusters of the respiratory illness.
VDH's Dr. Diane Woolard told CBS 6 News last week that the reason why the tests took so long is because "it’s very difficult to do laboratory testing.”
“They [CDC] have a backlog and it takes a while to get the testing done and then the results,” Woolard said.
- Labs unable to determine if sick St. Mary’s kids had Enterovirus EV-D68
- Sick children released from St. Mary’s; doctors await Enterovirus test results
- VCU Medical Center sees influx of young patients, St. Mary’s tests children for Enterovirus
- What is Enterovirus EV-D68, how can you prevent it and why is it sending so many children to the hospital?
Enteroviruses are common, especially in the summer and fall months. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10 million to 15 million infections occur in the United States each year. These viruses usually appear like the common cold; symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose and a cough.
Most people recover without any treatment. But Enterovirus D68 seems to be exacerbating breathing problems in children who have asthma.
Parents should be on the lookout for the symptoms of Enterovirus D68. Unfortunately, in the beginning it's difficult -- if not impossible -- to tell the difference between a regular cold and this type of virus. But if your child develops a fever or a rash, or if he has difficulty breathing, seek medical attention right away.
Children with asthma or a history of breathing problems are particularly susceptible for severe symptoms.
The virus is hard to track as many enteroviruses cause similar symptoms and hospitals generally do not test for specific types. But health officials have asked doctors to send in samples if they suspect that Enterovirus D68 has caused a patient's severe respiratory illness.
Since mid-August, the CDC has confirmed more than 100 cases of Enterovirus D68 in the United States. Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York and Oklahoma all have patients who have tested positive for the virus.
The CNN wire contributed to this report.