Respiratory virus reaches Alabama

Published 2:17 pm Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A rare respiratory illness that has swept across the Midwest, may have found its way to Alabama.

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus, known as Enterovirus 68, but Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital, believes an uptick in respiratory -related ER admissions could be linked to the illness.

“Since the latter part of August all have noticed an increase in volume of patients being admitted with respiratory illnesses,” he said.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control, the illness can cause difficulty breathing and can severely aggravate asthma. Children have been diagnosed with the illness most often, but adults can be hit as well.

“It can cause mild cold symptoms but on the other hand it can cause more severe respiratory symptoms such as heavy breathing; a lot of wheezing is associated with this,” Kimberlin said.

Kimberlin also said that while the outbreak has garnered a lot of attention, this is not a new virus.

“This is a virus we’ve known about for 52 years so it’s not a new virus,” he said. “It’s caused outbreaks before but they’ve been smaller and more isolated kind of outbreaks.

There is no vaccine or cure for the virus, and health officials say the best prevention is for one to wash his or her hands often and stay away, if possible, from large crowds and enclosed areas where other infected individuals may be.

The virus has not caused any deaths, according to the CDC.