What is this Enterovirus D68 that I see on the news?
It is a little bit scary, especially if you have kids, and is enough to make any parent worry. So what is Enterovirus D68 or EV-D68?
First of all, it isn't new. It was first found in California more than 50 years ago, and has caused isolated outbreaks. It mostly affects babies, kids and teens because their immune systems are seeing this type of virus for the first time. Second, there are hundreds of viruses that cause symptoms like this and each time your children's bodies fight them off, they get stronger! Most people infected with EV-D68 will have no symptoms or only mild symptoms like the common cold including fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough and body aches.
Since it looks and feels like any other common cold, that is how you can treat it:
- Have your child drink plenty of fluids, and take over the counter medicines (like Tylenol) for symptoms. Aspirin should not be given to children.
- Contact your primary care doctor to make an appointment for advice that is specific to your child and their symptom relief.
- Antibiotics do not work on Enterovirus D68 and there are no vaccines or anti-viral medication available for this virus.
A small number of children, mostly in the Midwest, have developed wheezing and more serious congestion. Many of these kids have a history of asthma. If your child is diagnosed with asthma, follow their asthma action plan on use of their rescue medications. Any child with more symptoms such as difficulty breathing or wheezing should be examined by a health care professional. Based on their symptoms, some children should go to an emergency room. If less serious, they can be seen in an urgent care center, clinic or doctor's office.
How can you prevent Enterovirus D68? It is a virus spread through coughing or sneezing. The Center for Disease Control recommends the following if anyone in your house has a breathing illness or virus:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
- Disinfect surfaces that are touched often, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
And remember, enterovirus is different than the flu! Make sure all children age 6 months and older be vaccinated against influenza at the earliest possible time.
For more information on how to protect your children, view the Enterovirus D68 infographic from the Centers for Disease Control.