An unknown respiratory virus has caused an outbreak in Illinois, prompting Blessing Hospital to restrict children below the age of 12 to visit its facility until it issues further notice, the hospital management said in a statement.

Over 70 children were brought over the Labor Day weekend to the Blessing Emergency Center for difficulties in breathing, while seven were admitted for further treatment of the still unidentified virus.

“We are restricting children under age 12 from visiting Blessing Hospital patients until further notice to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the virus for all involved, the children who would be visiting and our patients,” said Dr. Robert Merrick, an epidemiologist at the said hospital in Quincy.

Further, the Blessing hospital is said to be working with Illinois Department of Public Health in identifying the unknown virus that is largely affecting children within the area.

Merrick said that this could be the same virus that last week struck Kansas City and St. Louis in Missouri. The virus was identified as human enterovirus 68 (HEV68), which is regarded as an infection in the respiratory system primarily affecting children.

The Hannibal Regional Healthcare System, in fact, issued on Sept. 2 a similar notice in its Facebook page.

“Due to the recent outbreaks of enterovirus infections in Missouri and Illinois, Hannibal Regional Hospital health officials ask that children 16 and under and persons with the following symptoms refrain from visiting patients who are hospitalized at Hannibal Regional Hospital until further notice,” the Hannibal’s post said.

Hannibal also listed the symptoms of the said enterovirus infection such as fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, mouth blisters, rash, and body and muscle aches.

Reuters also reported that St. Louis Children’s Hospital last week revealed a 50 percent increase in intakes associated with the HEV68, while Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City recorded 300 cases of affected children.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention associated the HEV68 infection with respiratory illness that ranges from fairly mild illness not requiring hospitalization to severe illness needing mechanical ventilation and intensive care.

The Blessing Hospital advised visiting parents and guardians in its facility to not bring children below 12 years of age with them in its effort to avoid further spread of the yet-unidentified infection. It added that its staff will evaluate the daily situation and declare if the situation is safe and the visiting restriction will be lifted.

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