PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) – Some medical experts are saying that Americans should be more worried about the flu and Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), which was confirmed to have made its way to Oregon on Thursday, rather than Ebola.
“We were expecting to find that we had cases of EV-D68 now in that this is something that is seen around the country,” said Dr. Richard Leman, an Oregon public health physician.
Most doctors in Oregon said they were not surprised when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed four cases of the virus in Oregon on Thursday.
According to the CDC, the D68 strain has now affected 691 children in 46 states and the District of Columbia with 13 of those cases just confirmed on Friday. So far, five children have died from the disease that is also connected with muscle paralysis in a handful of other cases mainly in the Denver area.
“Different people have different severity of illness with this disease and certain people are more susceptible to severe disease,” said Leman.
EV-D68, influenza and Ebola were all major topics at this week’s annual meeting of the Infectious Disease Society of America. Health experts in attendance warned Americans not to underestimate what they’ve been dealing with long before Ebola entered the country.
The experts said of the three viruses, influenza kills 3,000 to 49,000 Americans every year and is preventable.
Included on the panel of experts was Dr. Bruce Ribner, the doctor who successfully treated the two Ebola-infected medical
He said poor conditions in West Africa are what fuel Ebola there, adding that the disease can’t and won’t reach epidemic proportions in the US, where bio-containment and hygiene measures are taken regularly.
Those measures, Leman said, are more often able to be overcome by the airborne flu or EV-D68 rather than Ebola.
“It’s only right at the time somebody coughs and sneezes and if you’re close to them. Otherwise, it just settles right out,” explained Leman.
Leman said the distinguishing feature between flu symptoms and EV-D68 symptoms is respiratory problems, including wheezing and a high-pitched squeaking or squeezing sound when someone exhales.
Oregon health officials said they are still waiting for results of 11 more tests. Of the EV-D68 cases already confirmed, three are in Multnomah County and one is in Deschutes County.