Viral outbreak of Enterovirus 68 sends hundreds of Kansas City metro kids to hospital

Enterovirus 68 attacks respiratory system

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A viral outbreak has hit Kansas City, causing more than 300 children to become ill.

It’s called Enterovirus 68 or EV 68 and it starts as what many believe to be the common cold. This month, Children’s Mercy Hospital has seen an unusually high number of young patients.

Lashonda Williams first noticed her one-year-old son Larez was battling a cold about two weeks ago. Overnight, those minor symptoms dramatically changed.

“He's vomiting, he's spitting up a lot, and when he's trying to breathe, we see his ribs. It's horrible,” said Williams.

Dr. Mary Anne Jackson is the Director of the Infectious Diseases Division of Children’s Mercy Hospital. She first noticed the growing number of patients a couple weeks ago. “Based on that peak and then looking at our hospital census, which had suddenly gotten very high, we realized this virus might be a little bit different."

Jackson said the virus makes it hard for children to breathe, almost like they’re having an asthma attack.

She believes it is contagious, prompting Children’s Mercy to make a temporary change and not allow visitors under the age of 12.

“Right now, we don't know a lot. We know we have a virus that's known, it’s been known for a long time. It's caused small clusters, a bigger one here, but we’re hearing from folks across the country that they are seeing similar disease to ours,” Jackson said.

There is no vaccine or anti-viral to combat this virus, and in some cases, children are spending up to four days in the hospital before they recover.

Jackson said good hand-washing is the way to stay healthy.

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