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What You Need to Know About Enterovirus D68

October 30, 2014

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Enterovirus D68

Enterovirus D68 is a member of the enterovirus family. This is a very common virus family that causes many cases of respiratory illness every year. Illnesses caused by enterovirus are most common in the late summer and early fall. Most illness caused by entrerovirus is mild and symptoms usually include fever, runny nose, cough, sneezing, conjunctivitis (pinkeye), and body aches. In addition, some enteroviruses cause symptoms of mouth blisters and skin rash including rashes on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet (hand, foot, and mouth disease).

Enterovirus D68 is not a new virus, but this year it seems to be a more common cause of respiratory illness in children than in previous years. It has caused illness in most states across the nation. Luckily, the number of cases in Connecticut is currently declining.

There have been several reports in the media of severely ill children requiring hospital care for the illness. Most of these cases have been in children with an underlying medical condition such as asthma or weakened immune system. The vast majority of these children have recovered with supportive care.

It is important to note that the majority of children infected with Enterovirus D68 experience mild symptoms of fever, runny nose, sneezing, and cough as well as muscle and body aches. More severe symptoms of wheezing and difficulty breathing should alert a parent to contact their child’s pediatrician promptly. There is no specific medication to treat this virus. Treatment involves oxygen and respiratory support if needed.

Children who have asthma should take any preventive or “controller” medications daily during this time of year and make sure they have access to their rescue medications. Children who have asthma action plans should follow them.

This virus is spread through respiratory droplets and saliva. Covering coughs, washing hands frequently, and making sure not to share food or drink with people who are sick is the best way to avoid infection.

Our take-home message for parents is this:

Enterovirus D68 is not new. Illness caused by this virus has received media attention, but in fact many more children become severely ill from influenza each year than from Enterovius D68. Parents should take common sense steps to keep their children healthy: frequent hand washing, adequate sleep, and good nutrition are vitally important to supporting a healthy immune system. Flu vaccination is recommended for all children age 6 months and older and is a good way to protect your child from severe respiratory illness related to influenza.

Other ways to keep your child healthy are making sure that all of their recommended immunizations are up to date. Vaccine-preventable illnesses like polio and measles are reemerging both in the US and abroad. Vaccines rely on “herd immunity” for their effectiveness. As parents chose not to vaccinate, the ability of these infections to produce outbreaks increases. We live in a truly global society and as we have seen recently, illness across the world is only a plane ride away.