The rare respiratory virus sweeping North America strikes kids hard and fast, warn two Ontario mothers with hospitalized children.
The Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) has infected more than 150 children in the U.S., and has recently spread to Canada with 18 confirmed cases in Alberta, three in British Columbia and four in Ontario.
So far, no one has died from the virus but dozens of children have had to be treated in intensive care units.
Seven-year-old Olivia Glen was barely breathing and beginning to turn blue when she was admitted to Windsor Regional Hospital on Monday night.
She has suffered from seasonal asthma for years, but her mother, Joanna Glen, knew this was not a normal asthma attack.
Her daughter was weak, wheezing, coughing non-stop and spitting up “nasty green phlegm”. Antibiotics prescribed by a doctor were not working and Olivia’s inhaler was not helping her breathe.
“This was a lot more severe than a normal asthma attack. It came on very, very fast,” said Glen, 41.
When Olivia arrived at the emergency department, she started to vomit and her oxygen levels were so low she was turning blue, Glen said.
“When you have a child, you can tell how pale their skin is and how tired they look. In any case you are just hoping and praying she’s breathing and that she’s got a pulse.”
For the past three nights, Glen has been sleeping beside her child’s hospital bed, as have dozens of other parents in the pediatric ward, she said.
“Parents are scared. The third-floor pediatric ward is full of children with the same symptoms. It’s terrifying.”
Olivia is one of 18 children admitted at Windsor Regional Hospital with suspected EV-D68. Test results to confirm whether she actually has the infection are expected back in about a week, the hospital’s spokesman Ron Foster said.
Emma Whittal, 3, is sharing a hospital room with Olivia and she, too, is suspected of having the infection.
Her mother, Jennifer Whittal, 37, said the illness “came out of the blue”.
“It just happened so quick for her. She was fine and all of a sudden she came downstairs and she wasn’t breathing well at all. Her little chest was pumping so fast,” she said.
Both mothers said their daughters were recovering, but they urged other parents to watch over their children and seek medical attention immediately if they start wheezing.
Ontario’s minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Dr Eric Hoskins, said health officials were “monitoring the situation” in Canada and the United States.
“As a public health doctor and a father, I understand that some families may have concerns regarding Enterovirus D68. I want to assure the public that Ministry of Health officials are working closely with local health officials and all necessary precautions are being taken.”
Hoskins said the public should not be concerned about the confirmed reports of EV-D68 in Ontario because, in most cases, “recovery has occurred within a few days”.
People with asthma are at a higher risk of contracting respiratory illnesses and regular measures should be taken to control their illness during this time, he said.