(NBC News) - Get ready to hear about even more new cases of that mysterious virus, enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed a new, quick lab test for the virus and plans to use it to get through a backlog of specimens.
“CDC has received substantially more specimens for enterovirus lab testing than usual this year, due to the large outbreak of EV-D68 and related hospitalizations,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “This new lab test will reduce what would normally take several weeks to get results to a few days.”
The virus has been around for decades, but it's causing an unusually high number of severe infections this year. At least five children have died while infected with the virus, although it's not clear whether that actually killed them.
"As CDC tests the remaining specimens it has received since mid-September, the number of confirmed EV-D68 cases will likely increase substantially in the coming days. These increases will not reflect changes in real time or mean that the situation is getting worse,” CDC said in a statement.
About half of the 1,163 specimens received from 45 states since the outbreak began in August have tested positive for EV-D68, the CDC said. About 1,000 specimens remain to be tested.
The CDC said many viruses cause respiratory diseases and there are millions of cases every year. Most EV-D68 infections are mild.
It said EV-D68 infections likely will begin to decline by late fall. "CDC has received informal reports from some hospitals and states who are seeing signs of decreasing EV-D68 infections. CDC is gathering more information from states and assessing whether this represents a national trend.”