A rare respiratory illness known as enterovirus may have made its first appearance in Massachusetts, as doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital have treated a suspected case.
Hospital officials would not release the age of the patient, but said it was a child who was treated and released, while other patients with respiratory illness are being admitted withsuspected cases.
There has never been a confirmed case of enterovirus in Massachusetts, according to the Department of Public Health. If the enterovirus has arrived in Massachusetts, health officials said the risk to the general public is limited.
Asthmatics are at the greatest risk for the virus, according to Dr. Bernard Kinane, chief of the pediatricpulmonary unit.
"They get a bad asthma attack. The good news is we know how to treat the asthma," said Kinane. "We’re seeing an upswing of asthmatics being admitted to the hospital more than usual. We're checking them for the virus as they come in."
Health officials confirmed Wednesday that a Connecticut child was diagnosed with the enterovirus, the first case discovered in New England. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from mid-August to Sept. 18, a total of 153 people in 18 states have been confirmed to have respiratory illness caused by the virus.
This virus was first identified in California in 1962, but it has not been commonly reported in the United States.
Symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches.
Those suffering from compromised respiratory systems should take the same precautions as they would to avoid the flu, according to Kinane, including washing their hands and covering their mouths when they sneeze.
"For asthmatics, we’re advising them to get early treatment if they have new respiratory symptoms," said Kinane.