The state health department is warning parents of a virus outbreak causing neurological complications in young children.
The outbreak is primarily linked to the A71 strain of enterovirus. Enteroviruses are common and cause issues such as hand, foot and mouth disease; rashes; and cold-like symptoms. The A71 strain is far less common and usually does not cause serious complications, but can in rare cases cause neurologic illnesses such as meningitis, encephalitis and acute flaccid myelitis (AFL).
The health department says that this year in Colorado there have been 41 A71-strand enterovirus cases which caused neurological complications. There have also been 14 cases of AFL, 11 of which tested positive for enterovirus A71 and one that tested for another uncommon enterovirus strain, D68.
Nearly all of the children infected have fully recovered, officials said. 11 News has reached out to Pueblo County and El Paso County; Pueblo County health officials say there have been no cases reported there, while we are waiting on a call back from El Paso County.
The health department released the following information for parents Tuesday:
All enteroviruses are spread through contact with an infected person’s feces; eye, nose and mouth secretions (such as saliva, nasal mucus or sputum); and fluid from blisters caused by the virus. Some people with enteroviruses have no symptoms but still can spread the virus to others. Typically, enterovirus cases increase in the summer and fall.
There is no vaccination or specific treatment for enteroviruses. People with mild illness typically need treatment only for symptoms. However, some illnesses caused by EV-A71 and EV-D68 can be severe enough to require hospitalization.
The state health department has been monitoring this situation closely since early spring. In addition to investigating the outbreak, the state health department has issued alerts to health care providers on how to test for the viruses and enhanced guidance to child care centers on infection prevention.
Symptoms of enterovirus complications or acute flaccid myelitis
Parents and guardians should contact a health care provider if they or their children have:
- Severe symptoms such as sudden weakness in arms and legs, trouble breathing, unsteady walking, severe headache, stiff neck or seizures.
- Dizziness, wobbliness, or abnormal, jerking movements that are worse at night.
- Fever along with any other concerning symptoms.
To protect yourself and others from enteroviruses:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Be especially careful to wash your hands after using the toilet and changing diapers.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and don’t share cups and eating utensils.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you’re sick, and keep children home from school or daycare for 24 hours after fever ends or if they are drooling uncontrollably and have mouth sores.
Colorado has experienced previous outbreaks of less-common enteroviruses. In 2014, enterovirus D68 caused an outbreak of respiratory illness in Colorado children and was associated with 11 cases of acute flaccid myelitis. In 2003 and 2005, enterovirus A71 caused outbreaks similar to what Colorado is experiencing now, with eight cases of central nervous system infections occurring in each of those years.