Health

Enterovirus D68: National alert sent to health professionals

More than 4,000 health professionals have been asked to be on the lookout for enterovirus infections that could cause respiratory illness, the Public Health Agency of Canada says.

National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg assists provinces with testing for virus

Enterovirus D68 causes typical cold symptoms for most people, but health officials are on the watch for more serious cases of respiratory distress, especially in children with asthma. (CBC)

More than 4,000 health professionals have been asked to be on the lookout for enterovirus infections that could cause respiratory illness, the Public Health Agency of Canada says.

The agency said in a statement that it’s aware of the confirmed cases of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) in Alberta as well as clusters of mild and severe respiratory illness in other provinces.

The alert was sent Sept. 9 through the Canadian Network for Public Health Intelligence to infectious disease doctors, pediatricians and epidemiologists, after cases in the U.S., a spokesman for the agency said.

The National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg provides guidance and assistance to provinces in the form of additional testing of samples for the EV-D68 subtype, the agency said. The subtype information could reveal if the cases match those in the U.S.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that the illness has spread to 12 states:

  • Alabama.
  • Colorado.
  • Illinois.
  • Indiana.
  • Iowa.
  • Kansas.
  • Kentucky.
  • Louisiana.
  • Missouri.
  • New York.
  • Oklahoma.
  • Pennsylvania.

Since mid-August, the CDC has received reports of 130 people with confirmed cases of the virus.

In Illinois and Missouri, which experienced early outbreaks, many of the affected children had asthma or a
history of wheezing, the U.S. agency said.

Enteroviruses such as EV-D68 are related to common cold viruses and can spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing, by close contact with infected persons or by touching a contaminated surface.

Experts advise parents to keep sick children at home, cover the mouth during coughs and wash hands frequently.

With files from CBC News and Reuters

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