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More Possible Enterovirus Samples Off For Analysis

As we reported yesterday, a Montana child has contracted the virus that’s suspected of sickening hundreds of children in at least 10 states. That child fell ill in Yellowstone County.

The state health department is sending samples from other suspected cases to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention for further testing.

Experts say enterovirus D68 can be tricky to both diagnose and treat.

It can cause mild cold-like symptoms including runny noses, coughing and wheezing.

Doctor Menard Barruga is a pediatric intensivist at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings. He’s treated at least two kids who may have the virus. Barruga says enterovirus is particularly active in the summer. Sometimes it presents only mild symptoms. It can also make some children very sick.

"And interestingly enough - the two kids that were  - obviously very alarming here - they didn't have the typical symptoms. They were well and then suddenly became really sick with respiratory symptoms. Both of those kids have asthma. We've had several kids since then with asthma as well, but a stay in the hospital, along with a couple that ended up in the ICU they didn't get as bad as the child we eventually had to send to down to Denver."

Barruga says this virus strain initially presents symptoms no more alarming that the common cold or flu. If it's going to get worse, it typically does so after four or five days and can really pack a wallop. What's more confounding is that some patients get better all by themselves; sometimes not.

The typical treatment for asthmatic kids who fall victim to enterovirus is bronchial dilators and steroids.

"For public awareness, I think the only real treatment is, if your kid is sick keep them home from school so that they don't expose other kids. And then, there's definitely hand washing. I think we can minimize exposure by good hand washing and covering your nose when sneezing or coughing - you know, those common sense things obviously help." 

What constitutes a "good hand washing"? The Centers For Disease Control says wet your hands, be sure to lather the backs, between the fingers, and under the nails. Do this for 20 seconds, rinse and dry. The C.D.C says proper hand washing is more important than many people think as it can prevent illness and even save lives by preventing the spread of germs.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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