Enterovirus D68 Prompts Hospital Wards to Ban Child Visitors

Hospitals are taking steps to prevent visitors from spreading enterovirus D68.

BySydney Lupkin
September 17, 2014, 1:17 PM

— -- Several hospitals have banned children from visiting patients amid fears of a respiratory virus that has sent some children to the hospital gasping for breath.

Hospitals in upstate New York –- including SUNY Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse -– are the latest to restrict young visitors as Enterovirus D68 spreads primarily among children nationwide. State health departments have reported possible cases in 27 states, and experts say the virus likely infected thousands.

"In the upcoming weeks, more states will have confirmed cases of EV-D68 infection," the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its website.

ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser noted this practice of keeping kids away from the hospital isn't uncommon. It also happens during the regular flu season.

"Frequently during periods when particularly contagious viruses are spreading in communities, hospitals implement restrictions on visitations by children," Besser said.

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Enterovirus D68 starts off like the common cold but can quickly turn serious and cause children to have difficulty breathing –- especially if they have asthma. In the most extreme cases, children are so sick they need to be put on a ventilator in a hospital's intensive care unit. No children have died from the illness so far.

The age restrictions on visitors vary from hospital to hospital. For instance, Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, is only restricting people under 18 from visiting its neonatal intensive care unit. Meanwhile, SUNY Upstate isn't allowing people under 16 to visit its children's hospital at all, according to ABC's Syracuse affiliate WSYR. And American Fork Hospital in American Fork, Utah, isn't allowing anyone under 14 to visit its nursery or pediatric ward.

Hospitals are also restricting people who are sick -- with perhaps a cough or a cold -- from visiting these wards.

The CDC has officially confirmed only 130 enterovirus D68 cases in 12 states, but experts say this number probably doesn't reflect the scope of the outbreak as a whole. Since the CDC does not require hospitals or state labs to report enterovirus D68 cases, and many state health departments are unable to test for it, experts say the reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg. New Jersey became the 27th state to announce possible enterovirus D68 cases.

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