California health officials Friday said they've now identified 32 cases of enterovirus D-68 statewide, a number that's jumped quickly in recent days.
In Southern California, four cases were in L.A. County, three in Orange County and one in Ventura County, according to the California Department of Public Health. All 32 patients were identified as children ranging in age from a week old to 15 years old.
"There have been concerns about EV-D68 because of the large outbreaks it sparked in other parts of the country," said Dr. Gil Chavez, epidemiologist with the California Department of Public Health.
"We are pleased that we have not seen an outbreak of EV-D68 in California, and as of today, activity remains within normal levels."
On Oct. 3 the public health agency had reported a total of 14 patients with enterovirus D-68.
Because enterovirus infections are often mild, physicians rarely test for them, and they usually go undetected. But this year, as outbreaks of illness associated with EV D-68 emerged in the Midwest, disease experts started seeking out infections.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that from mid-August to Friday a total of 691 people nationwide had a respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D-68.
The arrival of the virus has been much slower in California relative to the rest of the country. The virus has been associated, rarely, with severe breathing troubles and, even more rarely, with neurological symptoms, including polio-like muscle weakness.
There's no vaccine for the virus, said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, interim public health officer for Los Angeles County, and the only way to prevent its spread is through hand washing.
Only one California case this year has involved partial paralysis: a child currently being treated at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
All 32 patients started showing symptoms this year through late September, the state public health agency said. Testing takes about one to two weeks, and specimens from early October are in the process of being tested.