“A matter of time” before respiratory illness hits West Michigan

Posted at 9:01 PM, Sep 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-08 23:44:23-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - It`s a respiratory virus spreading to hundreds of children in the Midwest and beyond - and a local doctor says it's just a matter of time before it hits West Michigan.
Enterovirus D-68 is responsible for an unusually high number of pediatric hospitalizations and the CDC says this is only the "tip of the iceberg."
"Enterovirus is a part of a large group of viruses that affect the respiratory tract and the intestinal tract," Dr. Richard Van Enk says. Van Enk is the Director of Infection Prevention & Epidemiology at Bronson Hospital.
It's a common virus, but brings a new severity - affecting children mostly ages five to 17, many with a history of asthma or other respiratory issues. So far, it’s hospitalized hundreds of children - sending dozens into intensive care in Colorado, Missouri and Illinois.
Dr Van Enk says he expects that the virus is already here in Michigan - or it will be soon.
He says now is the time for West Michigan parents to start taking precautions, stressing the importance of keeping your child away from sick kids and not sending your child to school if they're sick.
"Keep your child home so it doesn't spread," Dr. Van Enk says. "You don't want to be the cause of an outbreak."
Dr. Van Enk says to also wash your hands and cover your cough to help prevent the spread of the virus. Parents should keep an eye out for children wheezing, coughing, having difficulty breathing or with a fever.
Fortunately, Enterovirus D-68 has not proven to be fatal - which is why Dr. Van Enk says it`s so important to monitor your children so they can receive treatment and make a full recovery.
"Sometimes (a child is) admitted to the hospital to be given oxygen, but eventually the infection runs its course and the kids are usually home in less than 5 days," he says.
The Michigan Health Alert Network has already issued a warning to doctors about the illness. Doctors says they expect the health department will have more information on the virus by the end of the week.