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Serious virus mimics cold symptoms but can lead to paralysis

Think your child has a cold, fall allergies or asthma?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the culprit could be Enterovirus D68, a rare virus that causes cold and asthma-like symptoms but can have severe results including brain infection, heart infection and even paralysis.

In the past month, hundreds of children have been admitted to hospitals for what the CDC believes to be Enterovirus D68, or EV-D68. It started in Kansas City and Chicago, reports say.

From Aug. 8 to Sept. 4, for example, more than 900 children came to Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver to be treated, ABC News reports. States such as Missouri, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and Oklahoma have sent samples to the CDC to confirm if the virus has caused symptoms, another report said. Commonly, hospitals cannot pinpoint types of enteroviruses on site.

Mark Pallansch, a virologist and director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Viral Diseases, said to CNN that the outbreak may only be the “tip of the iceberg” as far as severe cases go.

Young children are most susceptible to EV-D68, and it can be especially dangerous for kids that have asthma. The virus infects the gastrointestinal tract, spreading when children get fecal matter on their hands and touch their mouths, according to Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. It can be spread by coughing, and lives on household surfaces such as doorknobs.

The virus is rare: There have only been 26 cases from 1987 to 2005. In Kansas City, there are 19 confirmed cases.

Parents, here’s what you need to know: The virus causes coughing, runny nose and wheezing, so it’s hard to distinguish from the common cold. If your child has a fever or wheezing, or develops a rash, you might want to consult a doctor. Make sure you keep household surfaces disinfected and encourage children to frequently and effectively wash their hands. Want more information? Click here.

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