Respiratory Therapists Have Their Work Cut Out for Them Treating Cases of Enterovirus 68

This summer has been an especially trying one for people in parts of the Midwest and Eastern United States, particularly those who were forced to deal with the outbreak of enterovirus 68. Residents in Kansas City, Missouri were hit hard with the virus, which affects the respiratory system and causes severe difficulty in breathing.

Hospitals in the Kansas City area were inundated throughout the month of August and into September with enterovirus 68 cases to the point that respiratory therapists were nearly overwhelmed. Ashley Santanna, one such therapist at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, spent the last several weeks treating case after case of the virus which numbered well into the hundreds. Santanna reported young patients coming into the facility needing immediate treatment for what they described as sudden and severe “respiratory distress.”

Typically the respiratory therapist profession goes relatively unnoticed by the general public, with the exception of people who suffer from asthma and other respiratory conditions. The last several weeks, however, have seen the star of the respiratory therapist rise throughout Kansas City as Santanna and her colleagues treated more than 500 children for breathing problems directly related to the enterovirus 68 outbreak.

Children’s Mercy’s respiratory care director, Patrice Johnson, told reporters that the vast majority of the patients who were being treated for the virus were given a treatment commonly used for asthma called albuterol. The medicine worked to alleviate the symptoms that the kids were experiencing but the unconventional nature of enterovirus 68 is such that even something as effective as albuterol took longer than normal to begin working.

Symptoms tend to subside within an hour of taking the drug for standard asthma but the kids being treated for enterovirus 86 were taking as long as six hours or more to experience relief. Nevertheless, Johnson and her team were committed to carrying out their jobs above and beyond expectation and the kids they treated can now breathe a little easier because of it.


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