A child from York County tested positive for a respiratory virus that has sickened nearly 500 people across the United States and may have contributed to the death of a 10-year-old Rhode Island girl.
Federal health officials are also investigating whether the virus played a role in the deaths of three other individuals. All four patients tested positive for enterovirus D68, but it remains unclear to what extent the infection may have contributed to their deaths, officials said.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention received confirmation Wednesday from the U.S. CDC that the York County child was infected with enterovirus D68, the state agency announced.
“The child, who was initially hospitalized, has returned home and is doing well,” Maine CDC said in a news release.
The school-age child experienced vomiting and difficulty breathing, requiring oxygen and other supportive care over four to five days at the hospital, according to Maine CDC Director Dr. Sheila Pinette
Enterovirus D68 may first appear much like the common cold. The infection can cause fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough and muscle aches. Concern has risen as recent cases have caused difficulty breathing or wheezing in children, particularly those with a history of respiratory problems, such as asthma, according to the U.S. CDC.
Nationally, about 75 percent of children with the virus who required intensive care and ventilator support had asthma, Pinette said.
Still, most patients recover after developing only mild symptoms.
“If a child experiences a significant change in his or her health that features some of these known symptoms, he or she should be taken to the hospital right away, as this could represent EV-D68,’’ Pinette said in the news release.
There is no vaccine or antiviral treatment for enterovirus D68. Supportive care for severe cases may include intravenous fluids, oxygen and steroid treatments.
Maine CDC has sent several other samples to U.S. CDC for enterovirus testing, Pinette said. Two came back negative on Wednesday, she said.
First identified five decades ago, the virus began attracting attention last month as hundreds of illnesses were linked to the infection. The number of confirmed cases nationally has jumped to 500 cases in 42 states and the District of Columbia, mostly among children.
While the infection is common and clusters have appeared in past years — most recently in the midwest from 2008 to 2010 — the new cases are spreading faster and causing more serious illness, Pinette said.
The virus claimed its first young life last week, when a 10-year-old Rhode Island girl died from a staph infection associated with enterovirus D68.
Federal health officials are investigating the cases of several Colorado children with the virus who developed muscle weakness and paralysis. Neurological symptoms aren’t commonly associated with Enterovirus D68, and didn’t appear in the Maine child.
Enterovirus and highly contagious, spreading from person to person through coughs, sneezes and touching contaminated surfaces.
To prevent the spread of the virus, public health officials recommend frequent hand-washing and coughing or sneezing into the elbow to prevent mucus spray. Hand sanitizers alone are insufficient.
Children and adults with cold-like symptoms are advised to remain home.
“Loved ones should avoid kissing and commonly used areas, like tables, counters and doorknobs should be disinfected,” the release states.
Testing for enterovirus D68 is conducted with a nasal or oral swab.
“As is the case with the common cold, the best protection against EV-D68 is good hygiene,’’ Pinette said.