Enterovirus 68 has put nearly 500 kids in hospital since mid-August

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It’s unusual for enterovirus 68 to afflict people in the metro, but as the number of cases continued to grow, doctors warned how big a danger the virus poses to children.

FOX 4 News was the first to tell you about enterovirus 68 before the Labor Day weekend. An infectious disease doctor at Children’s Mercy Hospital says entroviruses are typically things like hand, foot and mouth disease and sometimes meningitis.

But we’re told this strain is unusual because it’s a severe respiratory viral infection that’s put almost 500 children in this hospital over the past two weeks.

Jodi Guetterman is watching over her 12-year-old son, Weston Guetterman, very carefully. A week ago she said he was a healthy sixth grader, until a cough believed to be caused by allergies sent him to an allergist who called 911. He was rushed to Children’s Mercy’s intensive care unit.

“I guess it was a good decision though, because I was dropping below regular oxygen levels very quickly,” Weston said.

Jodi says her son has a mild form of asthma and simply thought he was dealing with an asthmatic episode.

“I wasn’t too concerned until another mother had came in and her son had been life flighted from Wichita with the same virus and was not breathing on his own,” she said.

Jodi says she’s glad she didn’t send her son to school and take him to the doctor’s office Friday evening as she originally planned.

“I think if we had waited the school nurse would have ended up… who knows what would have happened?” she said.

Doctor Mary Anne Jackson, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s Mercy, says the pediatric emergency department first noticed a surge in the number of children experiencing severe breathing problems in mid-August.

She says so far, almost 500 children have been treated at Children’s Mercy many with symptoms that begin as the common cold.

“We were seeing children with cough and difficulty breathing with or without wheezing, with or without fever, who were requiring supplemental oxygen,” Dr. Jackson explained.

Dr. Jackson urges parents of asthmatic children to be particularly cautious if their children experience labored breathing. She says the number of children being treated with the virus is leveling off and she believes the disease has reached its peak in the metro.

Dr. Jackson says the virus has not been detected in adults. She recommends good hand hygiene and coughing in your arm as deterrents. As for Weston, he’s hoping to be released from the hospital soon.

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