Hospital beds at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Mo., were full last week. Hospital officials told Fox 4 News that they had treated more than 300 cases of enterovirus 68, an unusual illness that mimics the common cold, but can be dangerous for people with respiratory illnesses like asthma.
Despite hundreds of cases in the greater Kansas City metro area, USD 231 officials say there are no cases in Gardner or Edgerton that they know of.
“We haven’t had any reported viruses since school started,” Leann Northway, USD 231 Communications Director, said. “If we had anything like that, our director of health services would be in contact with us.”
Barbara Mitchell, Johnson County Health Department public information officer, said there are 57 diseases that health care professionals report to county and state health departments, and enterovirus 68 isn’t one of them.
“We would only hear about it anecdotally,” Mitchell said.
It’s not a reportable illness in Missouri either, Jeff Hershberger, a spokesman for the Kansas City, Mo., Heath Department, said.
Hershberger said media reports of enterovirus 68 are coming from hospitals, not public health departments.
“For a lot of these, the hospitals will do testing,” Hershberger said. “We don’t really know how many of these are out there, because it’s not on the reportable list.”
Symptoms of entorovirus 68 are similar to those of the common cold.
“It’s basically a cold that can get really serious or severe,” Hershberger said. “Especially if you’re a kid with asthma.”
Hershberger said it’s been a rough season for respiratory illnesses.
“It’s not been good weather for anyone with respiratory illnesses in the first place,” he said. “With the bad air quality as I understand it, (enterovirus 68) can progress really quickly.”
Prevention of enterovirus infection is the same as it is for the common cold and flu.
“The single best thing you can do is make sure you’re washing your hands,” Hershberger said.
Hand washing should be done with lots of soap and water.
He also recommends that those who are sneezing or coughing use tissues or the crook of their elbow rather than sneezing into their hand. Those who are sick should not go to school or to work.
“It probably sounds like we’re beating a dead horse, but that advice is a huge preventer of many respiratory illnesses, and really, many illnesses in general,” Hershberger said.
At USD 231, Northway said so far, there haven’t been any reports of large absences due to any illnesses.
“We’ve only been in session two weeks, and it’s been pretty quiet here,” Northway said. “We haven’t had any reporting like that. Hopefully, that stays the case.”