- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 7, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - State health officials report three more cases of an unusual respiratory virus that has been affecting children across the U.S., raising the total number of cases in North Carolina to nine since late September.

The unusual virus called enterovirus 68 has sickened more than 500 people in 43 states and Washington, D.C. - almost all of them children.

Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the three new cases on Tuesday. An agency statement said the three specimens that tested positive were obtained from children ages 10 and under with respiratory illnesses.

One additional case that meets the criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was detected in the eastern part of the state. The patient tested positive but additional testing is being done.

“The confirmed cases were located in different parts of the state, so it is important for everyone, including parents and schools, to take necessary actions to prevent the spread of EV-D68 and other respiratory viruses,” said Dr. Zack Moore, a pediatrician and epidemiologist with the Division of Public Health. “There are no vaccines and no specific treatments for EV-D68, so prevention is the best option.”

Since people with asthma have a higher risk of respiratory illnesses, health officials are reminding everyone with the condition to take their medications as prescribed and make sure it is under good control. Health officials are also recommending getting a flu vaccine as soon as possible to help prevent another important cause of respiratory illness that could be going around at the same time.

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