CDC: Midwest enterovirus could be 'tip of iceberg'

"We don't have all the answers yet," said Mark Pallansch, director of the CDC's Division of Viral Diseases.
By Aileen Graef Follow @AileenGraef Contact the Author   |  Updated Sept. 8, 2014 at 2:39 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the enterovirus causing hundreds of hospitalizations in the Midwest could get much worse.

The high number of hospitalizations could be "just the tip of the iceberg in terms of severe cases," said Mark Pallansch, director of the CDC's Division of Viral Diseases.

"We're in the middle of looking into this," he told CNN on Sunday. "We don't have all the answers yet."

Ten states have requested CDC assistance -- Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky -- in investigating and responding to the illness.

Enteroviruses like the one striking the Midwest, EV-D68, are fairly common. Summer colds are often attributed to enteroviruses that peak in September during the seasonal transition.

What is unusual is the high number of hospitalizations of children. More than 30 children per day are being sent to the hospital in Kansas City, Mo., 15 percent of them to intensive care.

"It's worse in terms of scope of critically ill children who require intensive care. I would call it unprecedented. I've practiced for 30 years in pediatrics, and I've never seen anything quite like this," said Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, the Children's Mercy Hospital's division director for infectious diseases.

The CDC is attempting to form a response to the virus, which causes severe respiratory issues; one 13-year-old boy was on a breathing tube for 24 hours.

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