(Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a faster test for detecting a strain of enterovirus behind an outbreak of respiratory illnesses affecting hundreds of children in recent months, the agency announced on Tuesday.
CDC said the new test for enterovirus 68 produces a result within a few days, rather than the several weeks needed under the old test.
The faster test will help it track where and when the outbreak of the virus is ending. CDC expects the rate of new infections to decline as the weather turns colder, and is already seeing evidence of this at some hospitals.
There is no known treatment for the virus beyond managing symptoms, and so the new test is not expected to improve the prognosis of individuals infected with the virus, Dr. Steve Oberste, the chief of the CDC’s polio and picornavirus laboratories, said in a telephone interview.
“It’s mainly for surveillance purposes,” Oberste said, adding that faster testing could help more quickly identify clusters of illnesses, allowing for interventions that might dampen further spread of the virus.
Much like common cold viruses, it is transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contact with surfaces that have been touched by an infected person.
The virus strain has infected at least 691 people in 46 states and the District of Columbia since mid-August, most of them children, according to CDC data.
Most people who get the virus recover after an unpleasant bout of influenza-like symptoms. In severe cases, especially if the patient is asthmatic, it can hamper a person’s breathing. The virus strain has been detected in five people who died this year, according to CDC data.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Sandra Maler