Health Team

Urgent care centers seeing patient influx due to virus threat

Posted October 1, 2014 3:07 p.m. EDT

— Local urgent care centers say they are seeing a spike in parents bringing in children who they fear are showing symptoms of a highly contagious respiratory virus that has sickened at least 472 people across the United States, including at least six in the Tar Heel State.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed the seasonal illness, Enterovirus D68, in 41 states and the District of Columbia, and although not generally considered to be life-threatening, health officials are investigating whether it was a factor in the deaths of at least three children elsewhere in the country.

"We have seen an influx in parents bringing in their kids," Dr. Sameer Maroof, a physician at Doctors Express in Cary, said Wednesday.

Maroof said parents are right to be concerned.

Enterovirus D68 is a severe virus that has symptoms that mimic allergies or the common cold, including a runny nose, chest congestion, fever and muscle aches.

The difference, Maroof said, is that patients' condition can get worse pretty quickly.

That has parents, like Lisa Marcotte, choosing to bypass doctor's appointments for more immediate diagnoses.

Marcotte recently became alarmed after her 9-year-old daughter, Sasha, started coughing, felt weak and had difficulty breathing.

"He didn't feel she had it," Marcotte said. "He almost told me that right off the bat, which was great because, for me, it was a relief."

Children with asthma appear to be more susceptible to the illness, and in some cases, people have experienced trouble breathing and wheezing, according to the CDC.

Dr. Allen Mask, a physician and medical consultant for WRAL News, said anyone with those symptoms, especially children, should get to a doctor right away.

The best way to help prevent the spread of Enterovirus D68, he said, is to practice good hygiene.

That means frequent, vigorous hand-washing, disinfecting surfaces, such as door knobs and tables, staying home and avoiding close contact with others when sick.

Enterovirus isn't new.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says there are more than 100 types of enteroviruses and that they account for 10 million to 15 million infections across the U.S. each year.