An unusual respiratory infection that strikes primarily children is spreading across the country. The virus isn’t new, but its effect on children seems to be, according to a story on KevinMd.com.
There are many strains of enterovirus, but enterovirus D68 ( EV-D68) has hit the Midwest especially hard, and as of last week involved 13 states, the most recent being California. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the symptoms can be severe, although no deaths have been reported.
As detailed by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician, the CDC’s data concern children from 6 weeks to 16 years old, with a median age of 4 years. Nearly 7 in 10 enterovirus patients had a history of asthma or wheezing.
“No question the illness has taken many by surprise,” Swanson wrote, “as it’s an unusual time of year to see huge numbers of children with cold symptoms with severe wheezing. In areas where the infections started to pop up, schools [have] been in session for a month or more so kids have been doing what they do best, playing in close contact and exchanging germs.”
Here’s what she says parents need to know:
- Enteroviruses can cause a common upper respiratory infection often causing summertime “colds”; rarely do they cause serious infections.
- Enteroviruses typically spread in fecal-oral fashion — that is, from not washing one’s hands after using the toilet, and spreading germs to the mouth. But EV-D68 also spreads from mucus and droplets in the air, from close contact.
- Both children and adults can recover from enterovirus infections with rest.
- Asthma is a risk factor for more severe symptoms associated with EV-D68. More than half of the children with lab-documented EV-D68 also had asthma.
- There’s no vaccine to protect from this virus and no current medications to treat it; the body’s immune system needs time to eradicate it, and sometimes symptoms are so severe as to require hospitalization for respiratory support.
- Prevention is the most important thing if the virus continues to spread throughout the U.S. Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before eating and after coughing or sneezing or after changing diapers, is essential. Children and adults should stay home when they’re ill.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises, “Children who have previously been diagnosed with asthma should follow their asthma action plans and communicate with their health care provider regarding yellow and red zone instructions.”
Remember that the symptoms of EV-D68 begin like a common cold, and you might not recognize its severity until your child is very ill. But most kids will recover on their own. If your child is unusually sick or is having breathing difficulty, call the doctor.