Two Israeli Children Contract Enterovirus-68

Both children have been discharged after coming down with virus that can cause breathing problems and paralysis, and has caused health scare in the United States.

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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New Yorkers arriving at an October 22, 2014, town hall meeting in Brooklyn on Ebola and enterovirus-68.
New Yorkers arriving at an October 22, 2014, town hall meeting in Brooklyn on Ebola and enterovirus-68.Credit: Reuters
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Two Israeli children have contracted a contagious virus that has sparked a health scare in the United States, where more than 1,000 people have been infected in recent months by enterovirus-68, which can cause respiratory difficulty and occasionally paralysis, Health Ministry officials said yesterday.

The cases were identified last month and the children, both under 10, have since been discharged from Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, where they were treated for breathing difficulties. No new cases have been reported in Israel since then.

“The presence of the virus in Israel is definitely insignificant, and in our estimation, it is abating in the United States as well because this is a virus that is active during the summer,” said Dr. Itamar Grotto, director of public health services at the Health Ministry. “We are keeping track of what is going on in the U.S. and following the reports.”

The two enterovirus cases were identified by the Health Ministry’s Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory at Tel Hashomer, which examined 280 cases involving Sheba patients admitted for respiratory ailments in a bid to monitor whether the uncommon strain of a common family of viruses had reached Israel.

Health Ministry officials are monitoring the outbreak of the disease in the United States, which has afflicted 1,116 people in 47 states, most of them children, since August. Experts expect the enterovirus outbreak to subside, since it is active mainly during the summer.

The virus, also known as EV-68, has caused at least 12 deaths. Seventy people who contracted it have suffered various levels of polio-like paralysis.

But in most cases, people who come down with EV-68 recover quickly, without assistance. Most children recover in about a week.

There is no vaccine for the virus, which is transmitted by coughing and contact with infected people and objects. As with other viruses, common sense and good hygiene – thorough hand-washing, avoiding physical contact with infected people (or, if you’re the one feeling sick, minimizing contact with others) – can help prevent infection.

Symptoms typically resemble those of a moderate cold. It may exacerbate asthma or other existing respiratory problems, causing coughing and respiratory difficulty. If a patient has serious difficulty breathing, doctors may recommend a respirator.

The mortality level for EV-68 is far lower than influenza-related deaths during last year’s flu season, when 109 children died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC says more than 40 percent of the 2,300 children suffering from respiratory problems in the United States over the last few months tested positive for EV-68. The virus rarely affects adults.

Enteroviruses are widespread, but EV-68, first identified in 1962, is uncommon.

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