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RALEIGH, N.C. — State health officials today confirmed the presence of three additional cases of enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, in North Carolina, totaling nine since Sept. 22.

Officials from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said the three specimens that tested positive for EV-D68 were obtained from children ages 10 and under with respiratory illnesses. All nine cases of EV-D68, which has been causing severe respiratory illness across the country, have been children.

One additional case was detected in the eastern part of the state. The patient with this criteria tested positive for rhinovirus/enterovirus but additional testing is being conducted to determine if it is  the D68 strain.

“The confirmed cases were located in different parts of the state, so it is important for everyone, including parents and schools, to take necessary actions to prevent the spread of EV-D68 and other respiratory viruses. There are no vaccines and no specific treatments for EV-D68, so prevention is the best option,” said Dr. Zack Moore, a pediatrician and epidemiologist with the Division of Public Health.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center recently confirmed it has received confirmation of a “small number” of patients with EV-D68.

Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes. Health officials are recommending that people take the following actions to protect themselves from infection with EV-D68 and other respiratory illnesses:

1. Wash hands vigorously and often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
2. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
3. Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
4. Frequently disinfect touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.

There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses and 10-15 million infections across the United States each year. Enteroviruses are common viruses that can cause a range of symptoms, including runny nose, coughing, mouth sores, fever and body aches. Some patients will also develop wheezing and difficulty breathing. If you or your child experience cold-like symptoms and difficulty breathing, contact your health care provider right away.

Since people with asthma have a higher risk of respiratory illnesses, health officials are reminding everyone with asthma to take their medications as prescribed and make sure their asthma is under good control. Health officials are also recommending getting a flu vaccine as soon as possible to help prevent another important cause of respiratory illness that could be going around at the same time.