Rare respiratory illness might be in Michigan, state health department investigating

Posted at 8:07 PM, Sep 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-09 20:42:36-04

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Community Health is investigating after seeing an increase in reports of severe respiratory illness in children across the state that could be associated with the Enterovirus D68 outbreak across the Midwest.

As of Tuesday, Michigan has no confirmed cases of the virus but MDCH has forwarded samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, for testing.

"I believe it's only a matter of time before we start to see the number of cases of Enterovirus here locally," said Adam London, a heath officer with the Kent County Health Department.

To prevent spreading the virus health professionals advise washing your hands and covering your cough. Parents should keep an eye out for children wheezing, coughing, having difficulty breathing or with a fever.

While the Enterovirus is quite common with more than 100 types and an estimated 10-15 million enterovirus infections occuring in the U.S. each year, the D68 strain is much more rare. There is no specific treatment for the EV-D68 strain so healthcare providers can only offer supportive care to patients with the symptoms.

"With the Enterovirus, it's highly contagious and in person-to-person contact it can spread like the cold or flu can spread," London said.

Whether talking the recent Ebola outbreak, or this Enterovirus outbreak sweeping across the Midwest, Angela Minicuci with the Michigan Department of Community Health says the state is prepared for a possible outbreak.

"This is the perfect example of that preparedness," Minicuci said. "We don't actually have any cases confirmed (of Enterovirus) but the surveillance is out there and we know there's a chance it could come to Michigan so we're doing everything we can to warn residents."

By 'surveillance,' Minicuci said she means MDCH can monitor data coming in on a daily basis from local health organizations, hospitals and doctor's offices to keep an eye on a realtime map of diagnoses illnesses across the state.

"We work with our local healthcare providers, local health departments, physicians and we notify them of the guidance being issues by the CDC," she said. "So we know what to look for and can take the proper steps to notify our departments."

While there isn't a specific vaccine or medication to treat the Enterovirus, Michigan does have access to a federal strategic national stockpile of vaccines and other medical supplies to deal with a potential outbreak.

Minicuci says there isn't a specific allotment for each state or county because it is determined on a case by case basis and the severity of the potential outbreak.

The health department says young residents with asthma or other pre-exisisting respiratory issues are most at risk of the enterovirus.