With enterovirus D68 likely affecting more and more children throughout Upstate New York, and leading to a surge of children being admitted to hospital emergency rooms, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide critical resources to New York State’s local communities, schools and parents that will help ensure this serious respiratory virus is quickly recognized, diagnosed and treated, while also limiting the number of children that are unnecessarily admitted to New York’s hospitals.

Chuck Schumer
NY Senator Chuck Schumer
Image/US Government

Schumer said that, as of this week, there have been hundreds of suspected cases throughout Upstate New York, including dozens in the Capital Region, Buffalo area, Syracuse, Rochester, Westchester and the Hudson Valley. In addition, just this week, the first cases of enterovirus D68 were found in New York City and Long Island. Therefore, Schumer asked the CDC to provide the state with resources to help detect and isolate this virus through a three-pronged plan.

First, given that schools and parents have difficulty recognizing the virus from other more common illnesses, Schumer said the CDC should provide school-oriented guidance so that children exhibiting serious symptoms, especially children with asthma, are being detected before the virus can spread.

Second, Schumer is calling on the CDC to provide New York State labs with additional resources, like test supplies or CDC health personnel, for testing and confirming cases of the virus. New York is currently one of the only states with the laboratories and expertise to test for this viral strain – which was very rare until recently – and Schumer said that additional resources will help New York State continue to test and confirm cases from within the state and from the increasing number of cases emerging in at least 18 states across the country.

Third, Schumer urged the CDC to do more to encourage health professionals to report cases of the enterovirus to the CDC, so that they can track how and where the virus is spreading.

“Schools and parents need to be on the lookout for this rare and serious respiratory illness impacting thousands of kids across the country, including many right here in New York,” said Schumer. “All hands need to be on deck to combat this virus and that’s why CDC should send additional resources to New York so that they can appropriately and accurately recognize, test for and treat the enterovirus D68. It’s also important for our schools to get the guidance needed to spot the symptoms of enterovirus D68 immediately and make sure appropriate action is taken—whether it be sending a child home from school or admitting the child to the hospital. CDC should also make sure health care professionals are reporting instances of this virus so that we can properly track caseloads. With thousands affected, and the virus moving rapidly from Upstate New York across the state and down to New York City and Long Island, a more comprehensive and aggressive plan is needed.”

Here is the text of  a letter from Sen, Schumer to CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden:

Dear Dr. Frieden:

I write today to respectfully request the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assist New York in its recent surge of cases of enterovirus D68. More resources are needed to accurately report and track this emerging virus as well as to appropriately notify the public about its symptoms and prevention methods.

Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is one of many non-polio enteroviruses whose symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. While enteroviruses are common, EV-D68 has begun to cause severe respiratory illness, mostly in children, causing them to be hospitalized. According to CDC, from mid-August to September 18, 2014, a total of 153 people in 18 states were confirmed to have respiratory illness caused by EV-D68. There could also be a number of unreported cases in New York and elsewhere.

I request that you devote resources to helping local communities, including parents and schools, recognize symptoms of EV-D68 and make any appropriate recommendations to assist these communities in New York in addressing this serious health issue. Guidance and outreach materials targeted to schools, school districts and parents should be made available.

Due to the rising number of hospitalizations of children with respiratory symptoms, there is a great need for testing and confirming suspected cases of EV-D68. The New York public health laboratory system is one of the only laboratories in the country equipped to analyze and confirm these cases. Therefore, CDC should focus and provide additional resources for this time sensitive and increasing volume of work.  Useful resources could include additional testing supplies or additional personnel to assist New York State labs.

The actual number of confirmed cases of EV-D68 is unknown due to the lack of reporting requirements for this virus. This makes it imperative that the federal government work with the New York Department of Health and local health care professionals to urge voluntary reporting of this viral strain.

I believe a coordinated effort between the CDC and state and local health departments are the best way to protect the public’s health. Thank you for all that you do to protect the health of all Americans, and for your consideration of this important and very timely request. Please let me know if I can be of assistance.