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Severe respiratory virus impacting hundreds of kids reaches Colorado

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DENVER -- A potentially severe virus that has plagued hundreds of children across a 900-mile stretch in the Midwest in recent weeks has made its way to Colorado.

The severe respiratory illness, which in some cases is believed to have been brought on by human enterovirus-68, an uncommon respiratory viral pathogen, is impacting mostly children, including several in Colorado.

Angie Anania, a spokesperson for Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver, said five different children have been checked into their hospital because of this virus this week alone.

One 13-year-old was discovered unconscious and barely breathing on Wednesday. He was placed on a ventilator and has slowly improved, Anania said, but he was still in the hospital's intensive care unit as of Friday.

"At that point, we were freaking out. I mean a cold, then within an hour we’re in the hospital and we’re not sure he’s going to make it,” said mom Jennifer Cornejo. Her 13 year old son Will is recovering after losing consciousness and being put on a ventilator after what seemed like, just a common cold.

On Tuesday, Will was starting to feel sick. Jennifer said, "Really couldn’t imagine that we would be ending up in critical condition." Now the teen is posting pictures on Instagram of the whole ordeal, but said it was scary. “I thought I was going to die,” Will said.

Will has asthma. After several treatments, he still couldn’t breathe. Jennifer said, "He was completely unconscious and he was turning white and his lips were blue." So she called 9-1-1 and he was eventually airlifted to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. "The air medic told me he was too critical to go by ambulance,” Jennifer said.

Will’s suffering from the same symptoms as four other kids in his pediatric intensive care unit.

“The initial symptoms that we see are the same as any common cold; coughing, runny nose. But the thing that`s different is the severity of respiratory symptoms,” said Dr. Raju Meyappan.

More than 20 others in the same hospital are fighting the virus, just a less severe form. “Our pediatric floor is extremely busy with patients with similar symptoms, as are surrounding hospitals,” said Dr. Meyappan. In fact, more than 900 kids have been treated at Children’s Hospital since August 18th. Dr. Meyappan at RMHC said it’s likely Will and the others have Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).

“We’re basing this off the clustering that we’re seeing."

News about this rare virus first started popping up in Kansas City, Mo., where doctors said they've seen 300 cases of this respiratory virus in the past week, all of which were of varying in severity and spotted in children of all ages.

Since those reports out of Kansas City doctors in St. Louis, Mo. said they have seen about a dozen children who were severely impacted by the virus this week.

While those St. Louis doctors continued to say it is not entirely uncommon to see this particular strain of respiratory virus pop up this time of year as school starts back up, the number of reported cases is up about 50 percent in their area, which is unusual.

And finally, doctors at Columbus Public Health in Ohio said respiratory symptoms that typify this virus were the chief complaint of an average of 52 patients per day in the hospital’s emergency department.

A good deal of the children hospitalized in the past few weeks due to this virus have tended to be those who have a history of asthma or wheezing. But that's not true in all cases.

The chief symptom of the virus is trouble breathing. If your child ever experiences difficulty breathing, Anania said, it is urgent to get them to a hospital immediately.

Though there is no anti-viral medicine for enterovirus-68 and no vaccine, doctors across the country have said it is effectively treated in most cases through supportive care, including the administration of oxygen.

For Will, it’s one day at a time. “He just keeps getting better and better each day,” Jennifer said. “In the end, he’s coming home with us.”

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