A virus which has sent hundreds of children to hospitals in the Midwest and Southeast on the United States has now moved into the Northeast, per health officials who've confirmed at least 12 cases of the Enterovirus D68 in the region.
New York has joined six other states -- Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky and Missouri -- in recording confirmed cases of the severe illness, officials there say.
"EV-D68 is causing cases of severe respiratory illness ... sometimes resulting in hospitalization, especially among children with asthma," the state Department of Health said in a release.
Two hospitals in Connecticut are also reporting possible cases.
Enteroviruses, which cause a number of diseases including the common cold, are common in the U.S. at this time of year, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating 10 to 15 million people suffer from enterovirus infections annually.
However, Enterovirus D68 is resulting in more serious illnesses than other similar viruses have caused in previous years, doctors say.
EV-D68 is hard to track, health officials say, because many of its symptoms -- sneezing, coughing and a runny nose -- begin like those of less serious enteroviruses.
Infants, children and people with compromised immune systems are the most likely to be vulnerable to infections, officials say.
People with most kinds of enterovirus infections -- there are more than 100 known varieties -- recover without requiring treatment, but doctors are cautioning parents to seek medical help if a child begins to show any signs of difficulty in breathing, a possible indication of an EV-D68 infection.
Enteroviruses are spread during close contact with an infected person, or by coming into contact with surfaces of objects contaminated with the virus and then touching the nose, mouth or eyes, officials said.
"It is important that we follow common sense rules to prevent the spread of this virus, as we do for flu and other contagious illnesses," Dr. Howard Zucker, acting New York state Health Commissioner, said. "Because there is no specific treatment or vaccination against this virus, our best defense is to prevent it by practicing proper hygiene."
Such practices should include washing the hands often using soap and water, not sharing items used by already ill people, and using disinfectants on surfaces that are frequently touched, officials said.
The countrywide spread of the virus has not come as a surprise, most medical experts agree.
"Geography isn't that helpful when it comes to respiratory viruses," says Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "We know that flu transits the entire country pretty quickly."