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Entrance to emergency room at hospital
Over the past several weeks, Chicago-area hospitals have seen an influx of children reporting flu-like symptoms in addition to difficulty breathing. The symptoms are similar in nature to the rare respiratory virus known as EV-D68, which has been sweeping across several Midwestern states.It has been confirmed that 12 states, including Illinois, have contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requesting assistance in investigating clusters of this strain of enterovirus.

As health officials await test results that will confirm the exact number of cases that involve EV-D68, hospital emergency rooms continue to see a steady stream of children experiencing symptoms associated with the illness.

In an effort to contain the illness, several suburban hospitals are restricting visitors under the age of 18, or those of any age experiencing flu-like symptoms, according to hospital officials.

Though respiratory symptoms may be caused by a variety of viruses, health officials are carefully monitoring what seems to be a sudden increase in the EV-D68 strain. EV-D86 is one out of more than 100 enteroviruses, a group of infections causing a variety of symptoms that affect an estimated 15 million Americans annually.

Similar to other enteroviruses, the majority of EV-D68 cases cause mild, flu-like symptoms that typically resolve on their own. In some cases, however, patients experience difficulty breathing that requires immediate medical attention and treatment. Though the majority of EV-D68 cases involve children under the age of 18, it is possible for adults to contract the virus as well.

In recent weeks, 82 cases of the virus have been officially confirmed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of confirmed cases spans over six states, and includes 11 cases in Chicago.

According to health officials, the most effective way to prevent the spread of the disease is quite simple: practice good hygiene. This includes thoroughly wiping down surfaces with hot, soapy water, covering coughs and sneezes with one’s elbow, and proper hand washing. As the virus has mainly affected children, officials are encouraging parents and schools to discuss hygiene techniques with their children.

It appears that the spread of the virus shows no signs of slowing down. As such, hospital emergency rooms can possibly pose a threat due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, and may be dangerous until the virus can be contained. Therefore, urgent care centers are a viable option for treatment of non-life-threatening conditions.

Over the course of the last decade, urgent care centers have become one of the fastest growing segments in the American healthcare industry, and continue to bridge the gap between hospital emergency rooms and primary care physician offices. Nearly half (48%) of adult emergency room patients who were not sick enough to be admitted to the hospital sought treatment at an emergency room because their physicians’ offices were closed, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Urgent care centers continue to ease the burden on hospital emergency rooms and physician offices, while providing patients with affordable, convenient, and quality medical care.

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