Minnesota Department of Health officials say there are no confirmed cases in Minnesota of a serious respiratory illness affecting children in several Midwestern states.
Hundreds of children in about a dozen states have been hit with an uncommon strain of the Enterovirus. The Enterovirus D68 has sent children in Kansas City and Chicago to the hospital. It starts out like a cold and then results in children having difficulty breathing.
"This year we have not yet identified a positive test for Enterovirus D68," said Aaron DeVries, medical director for the Infectious Disease Division of the Minnesota Department of Health.
Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, which includes hospitals in St. Paul and Minneapolis, did see an increase in asthma-related hospitalizations this past weekend but no confirmed cases of this specific virus.
"Definitely an increase in kids with asthma -- the emergency rooms were busy this weekend, " said Patsy Stinchfield, director of infection prevention and control at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
Stinchfield says Children's is in close contact with the Minnesota Department of Health and has sent samples to the agency to make sure that Enterovirus D68 has not reached Minnesota.
The Centers for Disease Control held a conference call with reporters on Monday saying half of the cases nationwide involve children with a previous history of asthma or wheezing. The age range is 6 weeks to 16 years with a median age of 4 to 5 years. The CDC says that hospitalizations are higher than expected but that there have been no deaths.
The CDC advises parents to take their children to the doctor if they have trouble breathing. But Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, said, "Most of the runny noses out there are not going to be turning into this."
Stinchfield says the best ways to help prevent the spread of illness is to wash hands, cover coughs and make sure to get an influenza vaccine now.
"This virus is more mild than influenza," Stinchfield said, adding that influenza season is right around the corner.