A recent outbreak of Enterovirus D68 in several states in the Midwest, including Illinois, has been causing a higher than usual number of respiratory illnesses among children. Here are some things to know about the virus.
What is Enterovirus D68?
This is a virus that causes respiratory illness. The symptoms can range from mild cold symptoms to severe respiratory illness including wheezing. Kids with asthma may have a higher risk for severe symptoms. Enteroviruses are a group of many viruses that usually peak in the summer months. This particular strain of virus is not new- it was first identified in 1962. Periodic outbreaks have been reported since then. Several other viruses that increase in numbers in the fall also cause similar illnesses every year.
How is the virus spread?
Just like other viruses, Enterovirus D68 is spread through respiratory secretions (coughing, sneezing). A person can pick up the virus by touching a contaminated surface and touching their nose or mouth.
What are the symptoms of Enterovirus D68 infection?
Most kids who come in contact with the virus will probably get a cold – runny nose, congestion, sneezing, coughing, and possibly a fever. In some kids the symptoms will be more severe and progress quickly to wheezing or difficulty breathing. Kids with underlying asthma or pulmonary issues are more likely to experience severe symptoms.
How can you prevent infection?
Good handwashing is the most important thing your kids can do to prevent infection. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If kids are sick they should be encouraged to cover their cough or sneeze. Coughing or sneezing into one’s elbow or a tissue can help prevent the spread of germs. Kids should also avoid sharing cups or utensils. In addition, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs or countertops can get rid of germs that live on surfaces.
What precautions should kids with asthma or a history of wheezing take?
For kids who have asthma or a tendancy to wheeze, it is especially important that their asthma is well controlled. Make sure they are taking all controller medicines (daily medicines) as prescribed and that you review their asthma action plans. Make sure albuterol rescue inhalers are available and not expired. Review spacer use and technique as needed. We always recommend that kids with asthma have an asthma follow up visit with their pediatrician in September or October each year to check on their asthma, review their medicines, and make treatment plans for the winter months.
What is the treatment for Enterovirus D68 infection?
Treatment for infection with this virus are supportive. There is no specific anti-viral medication. For most kids, Tylenol or Ibuprofen for fever reduction will be sufficient. Supportive care for cold symptoms can alleviate some discomfort. For kids who have wheezing, inhaled albuterol and other medicines may be prescribed. If your child is having severe symptoms, they should be evaluated by their pediatrician.
Is there a test for Enterovirus D68?
There is currently not a widely available test for the virus. In an effort to characterize the outbreak, the CDC is obtaining samples from hospitalized patients and patients in intensive care units to run specific tests. Testing is not available at offices or emergency rooms. Due to the viral nature of the infection, testing would not lead to any changes in treatment.