The start of the school year means more activities for children and more opportunities for the spreading of germs. Recent outbreaks of respiratory illness in 12 states have parents and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concerned about the outbreak spreading through the United States.
Five states — Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa — have confirmed cases of Enterovirus D68, also known as EV-D68. Enteroviruses are common in the summer and fall, reaching their peak in September. In the United States, 10 to 15 million people are infected each year.
Symptoms for EV-D68 start similar to the common cold — runny nose, sneezing, and coughing — and may escalate to difficulty breathing and respiratory distress. The recent outbreak of EV-D68 has raised concerns because of the number of children requiring hospitalization.
“Parents should have their child evaluated if they are very short of breath. This presentation is much more impressive than parents are used to seeing with common bronchitis,” Dr. Mark Dowell of Rocky Mountain Infectious Diseases said. “Any child is at risk, but there appears to be a risk of major illness in kids with chronic lung conditions such as asthma.”
According to the CDC, EV-D68 was identified in 1962 in California, since then cases have been rarely reported. Few studies have been done on this strain of enterovirus because of its rarity, and no antiviral medications are available for treatment.
“Parents must use common sense and not panic. Frequent hand washing, use of hand gel, and covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing will slow the spread,” Dr. Dowell said. “If your child is quite ill, he should stay home. Again, we are talking about an illness that is much more aggressive than the usual colds and bronchitis.”
- Wash hands with soap and water
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.