(CNN) – Since mid-August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed more than 100 cases of Enterovirus D68 in 12 states: Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, New York and Oklahoma.
Yet the real number of severe respiratory illnesses caused by this virus is probably even higher, the CDC says.
Enteroviruses are very common, especially in the early fall. The CDC estimates that 10 million to 15 million infections occur in the United States each year. These viruses usually present like the common cold; symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose and a cough.
Most people recover without any treatment. But Enterovirus D68 appears to be exacerbating breathing problems in children who have asthma.
“Children less than 5 years old and children with underlying asthma appear to be at greatest risk of having medical complications from EV-D68,” Oklahoma epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley said. “If a child develops a cold or a cough, parents and caregivers should just watch the child a little more closely. … If wheezing or asthma-like symptoms develop, medical care should be accessed immediately.”
The virus is hard to track, as many enteroviruses cause similar symptoms and hospitals generally do not test for specific types. But the CDC has asked hospitals across the country to send in samples if workers suspect that Enterovirus D68 has caused a patient’s severe respiratory illness.
Alabama, Indiana and Oklahoma are the latest to join the growing list of states with confirmed cases, health officials say.
Seven of 24 specimens sent to the CDC from Oklahoma hospitals and laboratories have tested positive for Enterovirus D68, the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced Tuesday. The state has seen an increase in pediatric admissions at hospitals in its central region.
The Alabama Department of Public Health also sent six samples from Mobile County to the CDC for testing; four came back positive for Enterovirus D68. One of the other samples was Coxsackievirus B3, and the remaining one was negative, the department said in a news release. Health care providers in the state have been asked to report clusters of severe respiratory illness.
Four children in Lake County, Indiana, were sickened by Enterovirus D68 and were treated at University of Chicago Hospital, according to a news release from the Indiana State Department of Health; all four have since been discharged from the hospital. Lake County is in the northwest corner of the state.
Other states including Michigan, Georgia, Ohio and Utah are also investigating clusters of respiratory illnesses. Several have sent samples to the CDC for testing.