September 27, 2014
LI Health System Temporarily Bars Children Under 14 as Suffolk Reports 4 Cases of Enterovirus
Children 14 and under are temporarily barred as visitors at the largest health system on Long Island as Suffolk County health authorities Friday reported four new cases in the nationwide viral outbreak.
Officials at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System say visitation restrictions at their hospitals and skilled-nursing facilities are aimed at ensuring patient and staff safety.
The health care system imposed the restrictions as cases of enterovirus D68 -- EV D68 -- continue to mount nationwide.
"The visitation restrictions are purely precautionary," said Terry Lynam, a vice president and spokesman for the health care system. He said emergency departments throughout the North Shore-LIJ system have been seeing an unusually high number of children with respiratory symptoms.
Most do not have enterovirus D68.
Lynam said other respiratory viruses are in circulation and he urged parents not to seek emergency care unless their child's symptoms are serious.
"We are encouraging parents of children with these symptoms to go to their pediatricians first," Lynam said. Because children with asthma have a greater risk of complications, this advice does not apply to them, he said.
Temporary visitation restrictions at North Shore-LIJ come as Suffolk health authorities Friday said four cases of the viral infection have been confirmed by the state Health Department. All of the affected children were identified as Suffolk residents under age 9, and all had been hospitalized for the infection but have since been discharged.
"These isolated reports indicate that this particular type of enterovirus is currently circulating in Suffolk County as it is throughout New York and the U.S.," Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken said in a statement.
The respiratory virus can cause mild to severe symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing and runny nose to serious difficulties with breathing. Children elsewhere in the country have been placed on mechanical ventilators because of severe breathing difficulty.
In addition to the cases reported Friday, one was confirmed a week ago in Nassau while school officials in two Suffolk communities reported cases of the illness earlier in the week.
The Comsewogue School District reported Monday on its website that "we have one confirmed case of enterovirus D68," that of a student at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Port Jefferson Station.
The district did not respond to requests for details on the student's condition or the source of the confirmation.
The Connetquot Central School District, which is based in Bohemia, said in an email Tuesday that "we have been informed that a student at Cherokee Street Elementary School has a suspected case of the EV D68."
Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the virus had been considered rare in the United States, but cases flared last month in the Midwest before spreading nationwide. To date, 277 cases had been confirmed in 40 states.
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