Health officials seeking outside evaluation on aggressive virus

Health officials are troubled because the current wave of respiratory virus is far more aggressive than they had anticipated.

Already there are 111 patients in the Hospital Nacional de Niños, and 27 of them are in serious condition. Many are on respirators.

Meanwhile, the public heath clinics are flooded, mostly with young patients, and some clinics are working 24 hours a day to accommodate the population.

The Ministerio de Salud already declared a health alert over the virus Monday. Now officials say they are sending samples to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta for an evaluation.

The virus is called virus sincicial respiratorio in Spanish and respiratory syncytial virus in English. The virus is common and the medical literature says that every child eventually

experiences a bout with it. But not like the current manifestation.

Health officials attribute the death of six children to the virus. They also said that older adults also can end up in a dangerous condition.

The virus fills the lungs with fluid and makes breathing difficult. A common progression is bronchiolitis.

A 2005 article archived by the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 10,000 persons 65 and older die from the virus each year in the United States. The impact of the virus was overlooked until the 1970s when it started to be diagnosed in long-term care facilities, the article said.

The health ministry says that the traditional methods are the best prevention: hand washing and covering the nose when sneezing. Officials also suggest that children with other maladies might be better off staying home from school or other activities with large attendance. The virus is carried in the air.

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