Recently children in a number of states have become very sick with a severe respiratory illness. The cause of these infections, in many cases, has been found to be enterovirus D68. Enteroviruses are actually quite common. They are typically seen in the summer and fall and usually peak in mid-September, right as kids are heading back to school.
Most of the time people who are infected with enteroviruses do not even get sick. Or they may have mild symptoms, similar to the common cold. However the strain of enterovirus that is currently making the rounds seems to be causing more severe respiratory illness. Children are being admitted to hospitals and some are even ending up in intensive care units (ICUs).
Anyone can become infected with enterovirus D68. However, infants, children, and teenagers are most often at-risk because they have not been exposed to the virus before and have not built up immunity yet. Also children with asthma or a history of wheezing can be very vulnerable.
There is no specific treatment for enterovirus D68. Doctors treat and manage the symptoms. Since this is a virus, antibiotics are not effective. There are also no vaccines available that can prevent the infection. The best thing to do is to protect yourself and others from getting the virus in the first place. There are three things that you can do to protect yourself and your family from enterovirus D68:
• Make sure you are washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Monitor young children while they are washing their hands.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. This includes kissing, hugging, and sharing utensils.
• Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces that may be contaminated.
Colds and viruses are very common at this time of year. However, if your child has a cold and has difficulty breathing, begins wheezing, or her condition changes in any way, it is important to contact her health care provider right away. This is especially true for children with asthma and/or allergies.
The CDC will continue to monitor the situation closely and help those states with affected children. You can find updated information on their website.