There is a respiratory illness – human enterovirus 68, also known as EV-D68 – that is going around parts of the United States, mainly the midwest, and it’s affecting children. This virus has sent hundreds of kids to the hospital and some to intensive care units.
Missouri and Illinois hospitals are seeing an increase in children with severe upper respiratory illnesses – more kids than normally come in to the emergency room for these symptoms. Kansas City had more than 300 respiratory illnesses reported in August – and about 15 percent of those children ended up in intensive care.
No deaths have been reported as yet.
Why is the enterovirus hitting kids so hard? With the start of school, it’s common for illnesses to spread among children. Doctors, however, are reporting numbers above the normal range.
Enterovirus Infections In the U.S.
Ten states have asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for help in investigating EV-D68; Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky – and the CDC is, in fact, finding the enterovirus.
- According to USA Today, Kraig Humbaugh, deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Public Health, said the CDC recently confirmed that five of 10 cases it tested from Kentucky actually were enterovirus D68.
- Kansas City sent nasal and throat cultures to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory to test for the enterovirus, and found that 19 of the 22 samples they sent tested positive for EV-D68.
- Chicago sent in 14 samples, of which 11 tested positive for enterovirus D68.
Enterovirus D-68 Treatment
There’s no enterovirus vaccine and antibiotics do not work on a virus, so all doctors can do is offer supportive treatment. Oxygen, intravenous fluids, and fever-reducing medications are often the treatment plan for patients in the hospital with enterovirus 68.
What Is EV-D68?
The human enterovirus 68 is part of a group of enteroviruses that cause generally mild upper respiratory colds, much like the rhinovirus.
There are more than hundred different types of enteroviruses that typically circulate during the summer and fall and cause 10 to 15 million infections every year. The virus typically peaks in September. While the HEV-D68 is uncommon, it is not a new virus – HEV-68 first appeared in California in 1962, and cropped up again during an outbreak in February, 2014.
At that time, this polio-like enterovirus caused symptoms of paralysis multiple children. According to NPR, however, there have been no reports of paralysis during the current outbreak.
Enterovirus Symptoms: Does My Child Have HEV-D68?
The human enterovirus 68 starts out like any other cold. Kids get cold symptoms like a runny nose, a cough, and sneezing. They might have a fever and body aches – and maybe even skin rashes and mouth blisters. If your child experiences wheezing, difficulty breathing, numbness or paralysis, seek medical attention immediately.
Most people recover within a week or two. However, in rare cases, the enterovirus can cause aseptic meningitis and encephalitis.
The people who are most likely to suffer a severe infection are those who have underlying medical conditions such as asthma.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases told the press that more than half of the children (ages 6 months to 16 years old) hospitalized for the enterovirus have asthma, or have a history of wheezing.
If you have a child who has asthma, make sure your child’s asthma is under control to prevent the enterovirus from causing a sever infection – and seek medical attention if your child has any warning signs of a severe infection.
Enterovirus Warning Signs
Most children who come down with the human enterovirus will recover without the need for medical treatment. Rest, fluids, and acetaminophen to treat uncomfortable fevers will aid in the recovery of anyone who becomes infected.
However, doctors ask parents to watch out for warning signs such as wheezing and difficulty breathing – and to seek medical treatment immediately in those cases.
Don’t Spread the Virus
Encourage your kids to wash their hands before eating to reduce their chances of catching colds, flu, or the enterovirus at school or social gatherings. If they get sick, make sure they know to wash thoroughly after using the restroom and after coughing or sneezing to avoid spreading the virus to those around them.
HEV-D68 is spreading, and ‘back to school’ is making it worse – but officials aren’t sure why the numbers of kids being hospitalized are higher than normal this year. Decoded Science will stay tuned for further developments.