You might be hearing scary news about how the Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is affecting children in the Capital Region. The Enterovirus is not new; in fact, you’ve probably had one – some forms of the Enterovirus are what we consider the common cold. However, this particular strain is being discussed among health professionals and parents because it could cause severe respiratory illness in some children and teens.
The number of children diagnosed with EV-D68 is changing every day, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that this year, there appear to be more cases of this particular strain than usual. An initial cluster of cases affected the Midwestern United States, and now some are being reported in the Capital Region.
Medical director Brian Sheridan, MD, who practices pediatric medicine and recently joined CDPHP®, has this to say:
While we are seeing a few cases of Enterovirus D68 in the Capital District so far, that number may increase this fall. It is important to understand that the majority of children who are exposed will only get symptoms typically seen with the common cold. Follow up with your doctor if you are seeing signs and symptoms that seem more severe than the typical cold symptoms. Additionally, if your child has asthma or a chronic respiratory or cardiac condition, you should consult your doctor sooner if you suspect Enterovirus D68.
How Contagious is EV-D68?
According to the CDC, most enteroviruses spread through contact with respiratory secretions like saliva and mucous, as well as feces. That means that the most likely way it’s contracted is when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can live on surfaces for some time, so it’s important to use hand sanitizer regularly and disinfect communal surfaces like doorknobs, toys, light switches, and tabletops.
Help Prevent the Spread of EV-D68
Much like the common cold or flu, you can’t completely prevent yourself or your child from catching the virus. However, you can take some simple precautions to help protect against this and other viruses:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. A good rule of thumb for kids is to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing. Be sure to wash thoroughly, including under the nails and in between fingers.
- Hands should be washed after using the bathroom or changing diapers.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth unless your hands are freshly washed.
- Avoid kissing (or other close physical contact) or sharing cups or utensils with someone who is sick. Teach children not to share these items with anyone because viruses are often contagious before the symptoms appear.
- Use a disinfectant to clean frequently touched surfaces like toys, doorknobs, or highchair trays in restaurants.
- Cough or sneeze into the elbow, not into your hands.
- If your child is feeling sick or showing cold- or flu-like symptoms, keep him or her home from childcare, school, or other activities where the virus can easily be spread to other children.
When to Call the Doctor
For most, symptoms will include runny nose, congestion, sneezing, cough, fever, and muscle aches. For some children, though, the virus could cause breathing difficulty like wheezing, the whistling sound that occurs when air moves through narrowed breathing tubes.
Most EV-D68 symptoms do not require emergency medical care. Since it is a virus, an antibiotic treatment will not be used, and for most children, the virus will simply run its course. No specific treatment and no vaccine for EV-D68 exists, but if a child is having breathing problems, the hospital can provide oxygen, IV fluids, drugs like Albuterol to alleviate the respiratory symptoms, or steroids to reduce inflammation in the lungs.
If your child has what seem to be cold symptoms that rapidly become more severe, call the doctor or take your child to an urgent care center if the doctor is unavailable. If your child has a history of asthma, a weakened immune system, or other respiratory or cardiac condition, watch any cold- or flu-like symptoms closely and call the doctor or visit the emergency room if they worsen. Our Find-A-Doc search tool can assist you with locating a network doctor or urgent care center in your area.
Remember, your child’s pediatrician should be your first resource for any information you need or concerns you have about this or any other illness.