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Across the country, hospitals are experiencing a surge in emergency room visits from children dealing with respiratory illness. The culprit is enterovirus 68. It mostly affects children, not adults, and can be especially harmful to those with asthma. The virus worsens asthma symptoms and even causes asthma-like symptoms in children who don’t have the condition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed cases of enterovirus 68 in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, and Missouri. There are also suspected cases in Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah.

Enteroviruses are actually very common, and affect 10 to 15 million people every year. Many of those people don’t experience any symptoms. Others just have a minor cold. But enterovirus 68 is a particularly severe strain. It was first discovered in California in 1962, but there hadn’t been many reported cases until this recent outbreak.

Currently, it is unknown what caused the outbreak, but it is believed the virus spreads person to person through coughs and sneezes. According to Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC, there are several simple ways you can help stop the spread of this virus--

  1. Wash your hands.

  2. Cover your cough.

  3. Keep your kids home if they’re sick.

She further urged parents who have kids with asthma to make sure their kids take their asthma medication regularly. She also advised getting the flu vaccine, as flu season is approaching and can also worsen asthma symptoms.