(HealthDay News) — The severe respiratory virus believed to have sickened hundreds of U.S. children in Midwestern and Western states has now spread to the Northeast, health officials report.

The New York State Department of Health confirmed on Friday more than a dozen cases of infection with Enterovirus D68, which sometimes requires hospitalization, especially for children with asthma. And on Saturday, the Connecticut Department of Public Health said it had received reports from two hospitals in different parts of the state of clusters of severe respiratory illness among young children that could be due to Enterovirus D68. The department said it was awaiting test results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm whether the infections are enterovirus. While hundreds of suspected cases have been reported, the CDC has only confirmed more than 90 cases in seven states: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and now New York. New York is the first state in the Northeast with confirmed cases.

“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,” New York state acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, MD, said in a statement. “Because there is no specific treatment or vaccination against this virus, our best defense is to prevent it by practicing proper hygiene.”

Illness associated with the Enterovirus D68 infection typically lasts about a week with cold-like symptoms. The virus is part of the family of viruses that includes the common cold. Children infected with this virus will appear to have a severe cold, with runny nose, sneezing, and cough. But the illness can escalate quickly in some cases, and the child may start to have trouble breathing. It’s typically transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes, according to New York health officials.

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