HEALTH ALERT: Wisconsin now has five confirmed cases of Enterovirus D68

MADISON (WITI) --The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has informed the Wisconsin Department of Health Services that it has confirmed five positive cases of Enterovirus D68 in the state. It may sound like these are new cases -- but really they've just been confirmed. Health providers send specimens to the CDC, and the CDC tests them for the virus. These specimens were sent to the CDC one to two weeks ago -- if not longer ago.

Currently, there are about 500 confirmed cases of Enterovirus D68 in 41 states. Now, we know for sure five of those are in Wisconsin.

"Not at all surprising. We fully knew that this virus was circulating. It's not a rare occurrence, but it's an unusual event this season in the number of cases. We're seeing  just a small subset of young children that are most severely impacted," Paul Biedrzycki with the Milwaukee Health Department said.

Symptoms of EV-D68 infections include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. At its most severe, the virus can make breathing difficult and cause wheezing. In states where EV-D68 infections have been confirmed, many of the children who had more severe illness were those with asthma or a history of wheezing.

"There doesn't seem to be a high case fatality rate. We're not seeing high rates of children dying, and that's good, but it would not be surprising if certain kids succumb to that infection," Biedrzycki said.

We're told those hardest hit by Enterovirus D68 are children under five with underlying respiratory issues -- including asthma.

Biedrzycki says the medical community doesn't know why the virus affects these children the way it does -- and says he expects to see more cases of Enterovirus D68 across the country and in Wisconsin.

"It's a very specialized test, so it can't be done even by our Milwaukee Health Department lab or other commercial labs. It has to be done by the CDC, which is one reason these are kinda trickling in now," Biedrzycki said.

Four people who have had Enterovirus D68 have died, but doctors aren't sure the virus has been the direct cause of the deaths.

Enterovirus infections are fairly common and are typically seen in the summer or late fall, usually around the start of the school year. In general, infants, children and teenagers are most likely to get infected and become ill.

Practicing good hygiene helps prevent the spread of this and other viruses:

    Individuals with asthma should continue to take medication used to control the condition, as people with asthma are at higher risk for respiratory illnesses.

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