Health officials keep watch on enterovirus cases in Pa., Del., N.J.

    (Heng Sinith/AP Photo

    (Heng Sinith/AP Photo

    Health officials around the region are keeping close tabs on a respiratory illness that seems to be hitting children and young people hardest.

    It’s flu and cold season again, and this year one illness — enterovirus D68 — is getting a little more attention than others.

    “This issue with this particular virus is that it is especially serious in children with asthma and other respiratory problems,” said Pennsylvania’s Physician General Carrie DeLone.

    There are surely other cases of unconfirmed virus circulating in the region, but, so far, health officials have documented six cases in Pennsylvania, seven in New Jersey, and one in Delaware.

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    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating whether there is a link between patients with the virus who have also experienced limb weakness.

    “We do not have any definitive evidence,” DeLone said. “It is still under investigation.”

    The CDC’s health probe is focused on patients in Colorado, Missouri and Massachusetts.

    A spokeswoman for the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services said there have been no reports of limb weakness or neurological illness.

    In New Jersey, the virus has been documented in children ranging from 1 to 9 in several different counties.

    State epidemiologist Tina Tan said the virus is one of many circulating in the community right now.

    “We really encourage people to stay home when they are sick,” Tan said.

    It’s the same respiratory hygiene message the state offers every year. “Cover your cough, cover your sneeze,” she said.

    There is no specific treatment for enterovirus D68, it’s basically treatment to relieve the symptoms children are suffering.

    “There’s no antiviral medication, there’s no vaccine to prevent this particular illness either,” Tan said.

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