Colorado Children’s Hospitals See Spike in Severe Respiratory Illness

Children’s hospitals in Denver are experiencing an alarming spike in a severe respiratory illness — especially among very young children and those with asthma — that may be caused by an uncommon viral pathogen.

Officials at Children’s Hospital Colorado said they have treated more than 900 children since Aug. 18 for severe respiratory illness and admitted 86 to the hospital.

“We’ve been seeing a very high volume in our ER, ICU and among hospitalized patients. The hospital is very, very full,” said Dr. Christine Nyquist, a pediatric infectious disease physician. “Kids are getting (the virus) and having asthma complications.”

The suspected virus is human enterovirus 68, a rare virus associated with respiratory illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus is related to rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, physicians said.

Samples sent to confirm whether it is enterovirus 68 have not yet produced a definitive answer. Similar outbreaks are being investigated in other cities, including confirmed cases in Kansas City, Mo.