Enterovirus D68

September 18, 2014

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Enterovirus D68

 

 

What is this new virus popping up in the news?  Should I be worried about my child?  What do I do if I think my child has this virus?  What should I look for?  How do I protect my child?

These are all excellent questions I’ve heard in the last few days!  Let’s go through a bit about what is known so far:

What is the Enterovirus D68?

It is a virus in a group called enterovirus, which include polio and non-polio type viruses (which include coxsackieviruses, echoviruses, and other enteroviruses).  You may have heard of coxsackieviruses before, if your child had hand-foot-mouth disease.  That particular group of viruses is easily transmitted from person to person, but the symptoms can vary depending on your child’s age and health.  Enterovirus D68 was first discovered in 1962, but until recently has only been seen to cause small pockets of disease.  Typical enteroviruses cause 10-15 million infections each year, with this type of Enterovirus only being a tiny number of those in the past.

Why is it showing up now?

Typical enteroviral season is summer through fall.  This recent spread of D68 seemed to coincide with the start of the school year, when all the students are back together- touching door knobs, toys, counters, etc.  With this particular virus only being seen in small outbreaks in its history, it leaves many children vulnerable to illness as not many children have immunity from either being ill with it before or being exposed to someone with it in the past.

What should I look for?

With most viruses, we see fever, cough, runny nose and body aches.  Similar symptoms are seen with D68, although it seems to be hitting harder in the respiratory system, causing difficulty breathing and wheezing.

What do I do if I think my child has symptoms?

With mild symptoms, low-grade fever, runny nose, cough- treat their illness like you would with any other viral illness- rest, fluids, and fever-reducer if needed.

If your child has a history of asthma or other wheezing illness, keep a close watch for worse respiratory symptoms.  Make sure your child is taking their asthma medications and check for an up-to-date asthma action plan.  If you notice any labored or rapid breathing, wheezing, or other signs of respiratory distress, call your doctor.

Is there treatment?

There is no vaccine for Enterovirus D68 and because it is a viral infection, antibiotics will not help either.  For healthy children, hydration and fever control.  For children with asthma and other respiratory symptoms, they may need to be hospitalized for extra support with their breathing and supplemental oxygen.

How can I protect my child?

The best way to protect your child is reducing the risk of infection- wash hands often with soap and water, avoid touching eyes/nose/mouth with unwashed hands, avoid close contact with those who are ill, and frequent cleaning of surfaces- doorknobs, counters, toys, sink knobs, etc.  Practice having your child cough/sneeze into a tissue or their elbow instead of their hand.  Call your physician if you have any questions.

There are confirmed cases in NY now and 17 other states and cases are starting to be seen in Canada too.

For more information:

http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/about/EV-D68.html

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