CDC Develops Faster Test for Enterovirus D68

October 14, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has begun using a new and faster laboratory test to identify enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), which has sent hundreds, if not thousands, of children to the hospital this summer and fall with breathing problems, and has killed several of them, the agency announced today.

In a news release, the CDC said it developed a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test that will allow it to process 180 specimens a day compared with 40 specimens a day with the previous technology. The agency will use the new test to finish off a backlog of roughly 1000 specimens received since mid-September in the next 7 to 10 days. Once it is caught up, the CDC will be able to test new specimens and report the results within a few days, as opposed to a few weeks, as in the past.

The agency cautioned that accelerated testing will cause the number of confirmed cases to shoot up. The rapid increase should not be construed as a real-time change or worsening of the EV-D68 outbreak, they noted.

As of today, the CDC has confirmed 691 cases of respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 since mid-August in the District of Columbia and every state except Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, and Nevada. Experts say the actual number of cases is much higher because CDC testing has focused on the most severe cases, which have required hospitalization. The virus is implicated in the deaths of at least five patients.

Enteroviruses are a fixture of fall. Together with rhinoviruses, they are responsible for respiratory illnesses in millions of children each year, according to the CDC. This year, the dominant enterovirus has been EV-D68. The agency said it expects infections caused by EV-D68 and other enteroviruses to begin tailing off by late fall. Some hospitals and states already have reported a downturn in the outbreak, the CDC said.

More information on today's announcement is available on the CDC website.

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