Worried about the “new” respiratory virus making the news? Here’s what every parent needs to know about Enterovirus D68.
What is Enterovirus?
Enterovirus is a virus that causes a respiratory illness, usually affecting infants, children and adolescents. There are many kinds of Enteroviruses, and they usually cause summer colds. But the strain making the news, Enterovirus D68, can cause a more severe type of “common cold”. This virus is actually not new. It has been around since 1962. However, this year we're having an outbreak.
What are the symptoms? How long do they last?
Most children only have mild symptoms such as fever, runny nose, cough, sneezing and body and muscle aches. Symptoms may last anywhere from 5 to 10 days.
Some children have become very ill from this infection. They developed difficulty breathing and wheezing. Many of these children required hospitalization. Two thirds of these children had a previous history of asthma or wheezing. There have been no known deaths.
127 people in 27 states have been confirmed to have Enterovirus D68 by laboratory testing. There are probably more infections that haven’t been confirmed yet. Infections with enteroviruses generally peak in summer and tend to decrease later in the Fall.
What causes it? How does it spread?
It spreads by person-to-person contact with an infected person’s:
- Nasal secretions;
- Stool; and
- Respiratory droplets sprayed into the air after a cough or sneeze
Who is more at risk for infection with the virus?
Infants, children and adolescents are most likely to get the virus because they don’t yet have immunity (protection) from previous exposures to enteroviruses.
Who is at highest risk for severe infection?
Children under 6 months and children with asthma and other respiratory problems are at the highest risk for contracting severe Enterovirus D68.
Will my child be tested when I take her to the doctor?
Probably not. Testing is only recommended for patients with severe respiratory illness and when the cause is unclear. Even children who end up in the ER might not be tested.
How is it treated?
There is no specific treatment for the virus. In most cases, the symptoms are mild to moderate and go away on their own. Supportive care is aimed at keeping your child comfortable. For pain and fever, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help, aspirin should not be given to children. There are no antiviral medications available at this time, and antibiotics cannot help treat a virus.
Some people with severe respiratory symptoms such as wheezing or difficulty breathing may need additional medical care or even hospitalization.
What about vaccination?
There is no vaccine for EV-D68. Some infectious disease specialists recommend that you and your child receive the flu and pertussis vaccines now. This reduces the chance that the child will become infected with more than 1 respiratory illness at the same time.
How can I prevent my children from developing Enterovirus D68?
Here are some smart prevention measures:
- Be sure to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers, using the toilet and when handling food
- When soap and water aren’t available, use hand wipes or antibacterial gel
- Teach your children good hygiene. Explain to them why it’s best not to put their fingers, hands or any other objects in their mouths, eyes or nose
- Teach your children to cough into their elbow
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick
- Clean your baby’s pacifier often
My child has asthma. What should I do to prevent complications from respiratory illness?
- Discuss and update your child’s asthma plan with your pediatrician
- Take prescribed medications as directed
- Keep reliever (rescue inhaler) medication on hand
- Make sure your child’s caregiver and teachers are aware of the condition and make sure they know how to help if your child if he or she experiences any symptoms related to asthma
When to see a Doctor
- If your child seems to have more than a common cold
- Your child is showing signs of troubled breathing such as breathing fast, ribs moving in and out with breathing, new wheezing, or flaring of the nostrils
- Asthma plan is not working – or asthma symptoms are worsening
- You notice your child has a loss of appetite, decreased intake of fluids, weight loss, or lethargy
If you have a concern about your child, call your doctor or connect with one on Amwell.