[caption id="attachment_454894" align="alignnone" width="614"] Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett announces the first confirmed case of enterovirus D68 in Massachusetts. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro[/caption]The Centers for Disease Control has confirmed that a specimen taken from an 8-year-old girl from southeastern Massachusetts has tested positive for enterovirus D68, a respiratory illness that causes acute symptoms in children with asthma. It is the first time the virus has been confirmed in the state.
Last week, health officials confirmed that a Connecticut child was diagnosed with the enterovirus; it was the first case discovered in New England.
There are still about 70 specimens that have been collected from across the state that are being tested by the CDC, according to State Epidemiologist Dr. Al DeMaria. Enterovirus symptoms mimic that of the common cold, though children with asthma are at the greatest risk for complications, DeMaria said. Specifically, enterovirus D68 is known to trigger severe asthma attacks.
Health officials fully expect more confirmed cases now that the virus is out of the proverbial bag.
"We expect it will circulate for another couple of weeks. During that time we expect to see a lot of people with ordinary respiratory illness, and hopefully not too many kids with asthma attacks," he said, urging parents to washtheir hands and cover their mouths when they sneeze.
The enterovirus, however, does not pose as much risk to the public as seasonal influenza, he said.
Though hospitals have seen a spike in respiratory illnesses being admitted, public health officials said they do not expect facilities will be overwhelmed by an influx of enterovirus patients.
"We're confident that hospitals are prepared to manage it," said State Department of Public Health Commissioner CherylBartlett.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 states have had confirmed cases of the virus since mid-August.
This virus was first identified in California in 1962, but it has not been commonly reported in the United States.