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Contagious respiratory virus hits three children in central New York

Ryan Delaney
Dr. Quoc Nguyen and Dr. Jana Shaw discuss the first cases of enterovirus in central New York.

There are three confirmed cases in central New York of a highly contagious respiratory virus that health officials said was only a matter of time before it struck children here.

Two school-aged children from Onondaga County and one from a neighboring county were admitted this week to Golisano Children's Hospital in Syracuse with the Enterovirus 68, according to county health officials and the hospital.

All three had asthma, which worsens the symptoms of the virus, which make it difficult to breath. Two of the children went through normal treatment and were home after two days, the hospital said. A third was admitted to the intensive care unit.

"The difficulty we're having is opening up their lungs," Dr. Jana Shaw, a pediatric infectious disease specialist for Upstate University Hospital.

"Most of the time, this infection appears to act as a common cold. A large proportion of children will recover on their own," she added.

Health officials had been warning for several days that the enteroviruscould come to New York after outbreaks have cropped up in the Midwest in recent weeks.

"Based on the CDC report, they were able to look at this virus that currently circulates and it has matched perfectly with the virus that was identified in the earlier outbreaks," Dr. Shaw said. "So we don't think this is a mutated or new virus."

Once children stop coughing and sneezing, Shaw said, they're not contagious anymore.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported outbreaks in at least six other states. Health experts link the outbreaks to the start of the new school year and children being in close contact with each other.

"It's not confined to central New York," said Dr. Quoc Nguyen from the Onondaga County Health Department, who added that at least 10 cases in the state have been reported recently.

Good hygiene practices are the best way to prevent catching or spreading the disease, health experts say. That means regular hand washing and good coughing etiquette.