- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - Public health officials in King County are investigating whether patients being treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital have a severe respiratory illness that has sickened hundreds of children nationwide.

Health officials said Thursday that additional testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will confirm whether it is enterovirus 68, an uncommon strain of a common family of viruses that typically hit from summer through fall.

The 15 cases involve children from 6 months to 14 years, said Marqise Allen, a spokesman with the state Department of Health.

The children were transported to the Seattle hospital with several respiratory illnesses, he said. They came from different parts of the state, including Grant County, Wenatchee, Yakima, Snohomish County and King County; one is from Montana.

There have been no cases of enterovirus 68 confirmed in Washington state. Test results from the CDC are expected next week.

Eleven patients are currently hospitalized, said Alyse Bernal, a spokeswoman with Seattle Children’s Hospital. She said most patients have an underlying medical condition, such as asthma or a chronic disease. Five patients have required intensive care.

“Although we can’t currently say that these cases are definitely due to EV-D68, it would not be surprising if the virus is confirmed on further testing,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, who is chief of communicable diseases at Public Health - Seattle & King County, said in a news release Thursday.

The CDC says cases have been confirmed in six states: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky and Missouri.

The virus typically causes illness lasting about a week, and most children recover with no lasting problems. Children with asthma, however, may be more susceptible to serious illness.

The virus likely spreads similarly to the common cold, through sneezing or coughing or touching contaminated surfaces. Experts say people can curb transmission by washing hands, avoiding contact with people who are sick and refraining from going to work or day care while sick.

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