State health officials have confirmed that a strain of virus that has been causing respiratory illness in children in other parts of the country is now spreading in California.
Four children — three in San Diego County and one in Ventura — have recently been discharged from the hospital after contracting enterovirus D68.
In a call Thursday afternoon with reporters, officials with the California Department of Public Health said that after a Centers for Disease Control warning earlier this month to be on alert for cases, the agency called for hospitals to send specimens from any children hospitalized with severe respiratory illness. That testing uncovered the four cases.
The children, who are both boys and girls, range in age from 2 to 13.
Enterovirus is in the same viral family as the rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, health officials said. Symptoms can include fever — although they hastened to add that fever may not be present. Runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and body and muscle aches are common. Some children may have difficulty breathing, especially children with a history of asthma. There is no vaccine against enterovirus.
Health officials said that more cases are anticipated after more testing is completed. “It’s a very good chance in the next week or so that we may identify several other places in the state that have positive cases right now,” said Dr. Carol Glaser with the agency’s center for infectious diseases. “Our lab has been receiving several dozen specimens throughout the state just in the last few days, and that work is ongoing.”
The illness is usually not severe, but health officials say parents should seek prompt medical attention for children with breathing difficulties, especially children with asthma. Three of the four Southern California hospitalizations were in children with asthma.
No deaths from enterovirus D68 have been reported nationally.
Learn more: The American Academy of Pediatrics fact sheet.