Windsor Regional Hospital in southwestern Ontario has seen a sudden surge of young patients with severe respiratory issues.

The children affected are mostly younger than five years old.

Enterovirus D68 Centers for Diease Control

States with reported cases of enterovirus D-68. (Centers for Diease Control)

Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj told CBC Windsor Morning host Tony Doucette that more than 10 children have been treated since Thursday, so the hospital is restricting visitation in its pediatric ward. Only adults aged 18 or older are allowed access.

Musyj said some children are being discharged, while others have been admitted. One child was sent to London, Ont., for further treatment.

"It’s not typical to see that many suffering from the same issues all at once," Musyj said.

Link to U.S. enterovirus uncertain

Hospital restrictions

Effective immediately, as a result of a sudden increase in pediatric patients attending the emergency department and some being admitted for severe respiratory issues we will be restricting visitors to the pediatric unit, Met campus, to 18 years of age and over. Only in extraordinary case by case circumstances will this restriction be waived.

These visitor restrictions for the pediatric unit are being put into place to protect the health of pediatric visitors.

Windsor Regional Hospital

Musyj said staff are not sure if enterovirus D-68 is to blame — the virus is currently affecting thousands of children in the United States.

A blood test would be required to make that determination, Musyj said. He said he's waiting on the province to decide whether blood tests should be administered.

"We don’t do the testing ourselves. We had communication over the weekend with local public health and they’re going to get in contact with provincial public health and determine if blood tests should be done or need to be done and have that take place," Musyj said.

The hospital will know if the children had enterovirus D-68 “probably sometime this week, if it’s determined by the province that they want to do blood tests," Musyj said

"It doesn’t matter what it’s called as long as you treat the symptoms," Musyj said. "It is viral, so they're being treated with some oxygen, with some breathing help."

Later Monday, hospital spokesperson Ron Foster told CBC News blood tests were underway.

"Testing (blood draws) have been sent to Public Health Laboratories (Ontario) and it could take from 1-6 weeks for results," he wrote in an email. "Regardless of this, the treatment plan is the same for children with respiratory issues, that is oxygen treatment and aerosol medication. The same treatment would continue due it being a virus."

Dan Hewitt's four-year-old daughter spent a night in the hospital last week.

“She had a fever and a lot of trouble breathing that seemed to be getting worse, and not better. She had even collapsed at one point and we had to carry her," Hewitt said, adding that she was admitted immediately.

Starts like a cold

Musyj said the virus begins with symptoms of the common cold, but they "increase rapidly. That’s what the concern is with this virus."

Musyj is reminding the public that the emergency room is for “just that: emergencies.”

According to the hospital, enterovirus is spread through direct contact or indirect contact when infected persons touch objects and surfaces that are then touched by others.

The most susceptible are children, usually those under five, and sometimes adults. There is no treatment, only symptom management.

Musyj said the hospital will be speaking with the Windsor-Essex County Public Health Unit this week about the recent influx of cases.

"To date, there has been no confirmation of enterovirus D-68 in Windsor and Essex County. Also, there has been no reported increase in school absenteeism due to respiratory illness," the health unit said in a media release Monday.

There are concerns in other parts of Canada as well:

  • Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer is advising parents to be aware of a respiratory virus that may be linked to dozens of cases of sick children in the U.S.
  • Alberta Health Services says it has seen a spike in "respiratory-related admissions" at the Alberta Children's Hospital since the end of August.

On Friday, U.S. President Barack  Obama was briefed about cases of a respiratory illness being reported in the Midwest.

Public health officials are monitoring a high number of reports of illness associated with human enterovirus 68 in Iowa, Kansas, Ohio and elsewhere.

WIth files from The Associated Press