Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What is Enterovirus (EV-D68)?

John Goldman, MD
EV-D68 – What is this and why should we be concerned?
There has been quite a bit of alarming information about Enterovirus (EV-D68) making the news. Several states – including Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Georgia – have contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for help investigating clusters of the virus that’s being blamed for the illness.

Here is the 411 from PinnacleHealth Infectious Disease Specialist, John Goldman, MD.

What are Enteroviruses?
Enteroviruses, which bring on symptoms like a very intense cold, aren’t unusual. They’re actually very common. When you have a bad summer cold, often what you have is an enterovirus. There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses causing about 10 to 15 million infections in the United States each year, according to the CDC. They are carried in the intestinal tract and often spread to other parts of the body. The “cold” season often hits its peak in September, as summer ends and fall begins. The good news is that enteroviruses usually aren’t deadly. While children have been hospitalized, no one has died.

How is EV-D68 different?
This virus is causing more respiratory problems than usual in children. Symptoms are starting like the common cold, but then escalating to wheezing and shortness of breath. Children, who already have respiratory issues such as asthma, are at increased risk of becoming sicker with this virus.

What can parents do?
Enteroviruses spread easily so it could be likely that it will make its way here.

  • The best prevention is good hygiene. Properly wash your hands throughout the day. Consider sending your children to school with hand sanitizer.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are regularly touched by different people, such as toys and doorknobs.
  • Avoid shaking hands, kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick. And stay home if you feel unwell.
  • If you have children with respiratory issues, make sure to have medications, such as inhalers or nebulizers, on hand should they become sick, even if the child has very mild disease and only requires their medications infrequently.

If your child has a cold and begins to wheeze or have shortness of breath, seek medical attention. Use your best parental judgment. If your children are experiencing symptoms, please contact your primary care physician. 

Why aren’t adults getting it?
No one is absolutely sure, but most likely adults have been previously exposed to the virus and have built an immunity to it.

What is the treatment?
There is no antiviral to treat EV-D68. Doctors can offer supportive treatments while the body works to heal itself. Its course is similar to the flu with being very sick for a few days and then fully recovering in a few weeks.


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