DALLAS, Texas — While the nation and the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex have been gripped in fear over the second US case of the deadly Ebola virus in Dallas, an even bigger threat has hit Texas — Enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68), the respiratory killer that strikes children. Of the 691 cases of EV-D68 confirmed from by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now in 46 states and the District of Columbia, 14 of these cases are in Texas.
On October 9, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) confirmed that the children with EV-D68 were residents of Anderson, Bexar, Dallas (7), Denton, and Lubbock (4) Counties. One additional confirmed case was in a resident of another state.
EV-D68 is one of the more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses, first identified in California in 1962, according to the CDC; yet, 28 patients in seven states are experiencing non-characteristic paralysis symptoms, including Collin County 11 year-old Bryan Sotello from Allen. He was taken to Children’s Health System of Texas in Dallas for a respiratory infection last July, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The youngster was treated and sent home, only his symptoms got worse and he lost the use of his right arm. He returned to the hospital where he’s remained since the summer.
NBC-5 reported that doctors suspect the Reed Elementary 6th grader has EV-D68. He spent much of the past two months on a ventilator and continues to have a tracheostomy tube in his throat. He still needs the ventilator at night to breathe. Sotello also remains partially paralyzed. He is improving and is not infectious and will be transferred to a rehabilitation facility where he faces “month, not years, of physical therapy” and he may never fully recover. Part of his therapy is relearning how to talk.
Children’s Health neurologist Dr. Ben Greenberg said that although Sotello tested positive for enterovirus, the hospital is waiting on a final determination from samples sent to the CDC to see if, indeed, it is the D68 strain, according to the Dallas Morning News article.
Jeff Allard, Director of Pediatric Nursing at Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas, also told NBC-5 in their report that EV-D68 has a telltale sign — wheezing in kids. He said that the wheezing is of concern and when that symptom is present, families are being asked to contact their children’s doctors.
In Lubbock, the Avalanche-Journal reported an additional case on October 10, although it was not recorded with the DSHS. If confirmed, this would bring the Texas EV-D68 tally up to 15.
EV-D68 is not new. What is new is the dramatic jump in numbers of children showing up at hospitals around the country in 2014. “In about two dozen cases reported in the United States and Canada, the patients developed polio-like symptoms. A smaller cluster of polio-like cases were identified in California from August 2012 to July 2013,” the Dallas Morning News included in their article.
Additionally, Chris Van Deusen, spokesman for the DSHS told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that concerns were raised about EV-D68 earlier this summer in yet another part of the country. He said, “There were two clusters of illness that were unusual — one in Chicago and one in Kansas City. It was a really sort of intense cluster of cases. A lot of children were showing up in the hospital with respiratory symptoms around the same time. That caused concern because that was unusual. That sort of sounded the alarm and started people looking for the virus. We haven’t seen that sort of thing in Texas, but we have seen cases.”
Several years ago, another strand of the enterovirus, EV 71, produced cases of illness and paralysis in South America and Australia, according to the Dallas Morning News article on the Allen youth.
Still, medical professionals caution against panic over EV-D68. Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) Medical Director/Health Authority Dr. Christopher Perkins said on September 26 that not all respiratory illnesses occurring are EV-D68. This also is cold and flu season.
The enterovirus season runs from July through October. Almost all of the confirmed cases of the virus this year have been among children the CDC reported. Infants, children, and teenagers are at higher risk than adults for getting infected and sick with enteroviruses like EV-D68. The CDC stated that is “because they have not been exposed to these types of viruses before, and they do not yet have immunity (protection) built up to fight the disease.”
They emphasized that children with asthma or a history of wheezing are at greater risk for severe respiratory illness from EV-D68.
The CDC site states that EV-D68 “has been detected in specimens from five patients who died from samples submitted for testing. None of these children were in Texas. FOX News reported a sixth case on October 12. EV-D68 is now being blamed for the death of a Michigan toddler.These cases are all under investigation.
EV-D68 has flu-like symptoms. On the mild side of the spectrum that may include a fever, runny nose, cough, and body or muscle aches while more severe symptoms include wheezing and difficulty breathing.
The CDC recommends a few tips to prevent catching or even spreading EV-D68. Washing hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds tops the list followed by avoiding physical contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or utensils with people who are sick. Covering one’s mouth when coughing and sneezing into a tissue or shirt sleeve instead of a hand is also suggested. Parents are advised to clean and disinfect toys and doorknobs if someone is sick and to keep children out of school when sick.
Breitbart Texas reached out to DCHHS Director Zachary Thompson, who graciously contacted us over the October 10 weekend regarding our request for updated information about the EV-D68 situation in Dallas County. Breitbart Texas will continue this report as the information becomes available.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.