CDC officials warn of virus outbreak in US

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As the Ebola outbreak worsens in West Africa, health officials are eyeing another crisis close to home: a rare respiratory infection that is spreading through the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that infections of Enterovirus D68 have been reported in more than half of all states with at least 175 confirmed cases. Many of the cases are children.

Two weeks ago, only 12 states, mostly in the Midwest, had confirmed cases of the virus. Within days, it was reported in New York and Connecticut, and has since reached California and Washington. 

President Obama was briefed on the outbreak during his visit last week to the CDC in Atlanta, a spokeswoman for the agency said Wednesday, highlighting the growing concern.

While the severe respiratory illness isn’t generally life-threatening, this year’s strain has worried healthcare workers because of the high number of children hospitalized for care.

The illness typically includes intense cold symptoms, but it can also cause difficulty breathing, particularly among children and people with asthma. 

The CDC expects that the true number of cases is greater than 175 because the testing is “complex and slower,” and can’t be done outside of the CDC and certain state health labs. 

Anne Schuchat, head of infectious diseases for the CDC, warned on Sept. 8 that the agency was “just beginning to understand” the fast-spreading virus. 

“The situation is evolving quickly,” Schuchat told reporters. “This is a dynamic situation.”