Serious Respiratory Illness Hits Hundreds of Kids

CHICAGO (AP) -

Hundreds of children in more than 10 states have been sickened by a severe respiratory illness that public health officials say may be caused by an uncommon virus similar to the germ that causes the common cold.

Nearly 500 children have been treated at one hospital alone — Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri — and some required intensive care, according to authorities.

The suspected germ, enterovirus 68, is an uncommon strain of a very common family of viruses that typically hit from summertime through autumn.

The virus can cause mild coldlike symptoms including runny noses, coughing and wheezing but Mark Pallansch, director of the viral diseases division at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this summer’s cases are unusually severe and include serious breathing problems.

“It’s not highly unusual but we’re trying to understand what happened this year in terms of these noticeable and much larger clusters of severe respiratory disease,” Pallansch said Monday.

The virus typically causes illness lasting about a week and most children recover with no lasting problems.