You may be aware that an increasing number of children in several U.S. states have been diagnosed with Enterovirus D68. Following are some facts and information that can help you to understand why this virus is gaining national attention and how to reduce your child's risk of contracting it.
Enteroviruses are quite common, as there are over 100 different types. Each year, 10 to 15 million enterovirus infections occur in the United States, usually during the summer and fall. Most people infected with enteroviruses have only mild symptoms like a common cold. Some people do not appear to be sick at all. However, enteroviruses can cause more serious symptoms that may require hospitalization.
EV-D68 is one strain of enterovirus that has been linked to repository illness that ranges from mild to severe. While this strain has been around for more than 40 years, it is less common and rarely reported in the United States. It is not possible to confirm which specific strain the children have (such as EV-D68) without further testing at one of a limited number of CDC facilities.
However, our specialists note that there's no need for parents to become overly concerned about the number of children who have contracted EV-D68 across the country. Their advice is to closely monitor children who have been exposed to this virus or have a mild cold-like illness because respiratory symptoms caused by enterovirus can progress quickly. Young children and people with asthma are particularly vulnerable to EV-D68 and severe respiratory illness.
Common Enterovirus Symptoms
- Difficulty breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Mild fever (sometimes a fever is not present)
- Runny nose, sneezing, cough
- Skin rash
- Body and muscle aches
- Mouth blisters
For children with asthma:
Children with asthma should continue to follow their asthma action plans and speak with their doctor regarding yellow and red zone instructions. According to the CDC, 68 percent of the children with lab-confirmed EV-D68 nationwide have a history of asthma or wheezing (Sept. 8, 2014).
When to Seek Treatment
- If you are concerned for any reason, notify your doctor.
- If your child is experiencing signs of respiratory distress, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, feeling of “not getting enough air,” call your doctor immediately or go to your local ED.
- If your child is unresponsive, turns blue or stops breathing, call 911.
Since many people who come down with an enterovirus do not have symptoms, it is difficult to prevent it from spreading. However, these tips can help keep your family to remain healthier now and during the cold and flu season:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. (Hand sanitizers are not as effective against enterovirus as thorough handwashing)
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, handrails and toys, especially where has respiratory illness symptoms.
- Avoid kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or sharing cups and eating utensils with sick people.
- Stay home when feeling ill and consult with your doctor if your child is experiencing symptoms.
At Alaska Regional, we're well prepared to take good care of anyone who is experiencing serious symptoms of any respiratory illness including an enterovirus. Our emergency medicine specialists can provide evidence-based treatments for symptoms that would not need to be adjusted even if the virus could be confirmed as EV-D68. They are ready to provide appropriate and effective patient care plans for anyone with severe respiratory symptoms.
If you have questions or concerns about enterovirus or its symptoms, contact your family doctor or pediatrician. If you do not have a physician, you can use our online tool to find one or call 907-264-1722 for assistance.