ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Are your children at risk of contracting a serious respiratory illness? A dangerous virus is spreading fast. If it's not in Georgia yet, it probably will be soon.
21 states have reported cases of Enterovirus D68, and at least 400 children have been hospitalized. No cases are confirmed yet in Georgia, but health officials say it's only a matter of time.
It's not uncommon to have the common cold around this time of the year, but the Enterovirus D68 is more than the common cold and could make its way from the Northeast down to Georgia.
"Yes, it's expected to move down here," said Ebonee Kirkwood, Southwest Georgia Public Health District Communicable Disease Specialist
The virus has been infecting infants and even teenagers. Health officials encourage parents to get their kids checked if they have cold symptoms because it could get much more serious quickly.
"They start to run a fever, their lips begin to turn bluish," said Carolyn Maschke, Southwest Georgia Public Health District Public Information Officer. "They start to have a lot of trouble breathing this is a medical emergency."
The virus is more severe in children with asthma. Health officials say Southwest Georgia has a high rate of asthma in children.
"So we know that we have the population here, so that's why it's so important that we get the word out, but A that this virus is circulating," said Jacqueline Jenkins, Southwest Georgia Public Health District Epidemiologist.
So far, there have been no reports of the virus here in Georgia. Southwest Public Health Officials have asked hospitals in the area to be on the lookout. The CDC is currently testing samples submitted from hospitals in Atlanta and Athens.
"We're waiting to find out when the CDC confirms or doesn't confirm what these cases are," said Maschke.
But there are ways to prevent yourself from getting the virus.
"Good hand hygiene and good respiratory etiquette," said Jenkins.
Health officials say there is also a treatment.
"It's a form of asthma treatment, but it also works for kids that don't have asthma," said Maschke. "It helps children that would ordinarily perhaps end up on a respirator."
There are no reported deaths from the virus.