Have you ever heard of Enterovirus EV-D68?
Why all the concern now? Because of the high number of children requiring hospitalization.The virus has been around since the 1960’s but has less than 100 reported cases since that time. It’s unclear why the number of cases has exploded this year.
The virus has sent more than 30 children a day to a Kansas City, Missouri, hospital, where about 15% of the children were placed in intensive care, officials said. Several other states are investigating clusters of children with severe respiratory illness, possibly due to Enterovirus D68.
Unlike other enteroviruses, this strain is characterized by respiratory symptoms such as wheezing and coughing.
“I’ve practiced for 30 years in pediatrics, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” she said. It’s worse in terms of scope of critically ill children who require intensive care. I would call it unprecedented,” said Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, a director for infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital, where about 475 children were recently treated.
Where is the virus spreading?
As of Monday, 10 states have contacted the CDC for help in identifying clusters of enterovirus illnesses: Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky.
But EV-D68 is often hard to distinguish from its relatives so the virus could be in other states as well.
According to the CDC:
Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is one of many non-polio enteroviruses. Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) infections are thought to occur less commonly than infections with other enteroviruses. EV-D68 was first identified in California in 1962. Compared with other enteroviruses, EV-D68 has been rarely reported in the United States for the last 40 years.
The CDC is watching this situation closely and helping the states with testing of specimens.
Many of the EV-D68 infections “will be mild and self-limited, requiring only symptomatic treatment,” the Missouri health agency said.
The CDC reported that some cases could, in theory, contribute to death, but none of the Missouri cases have resulted in death, and no data is available for overall morbidity, and mortality from the virus in the United States, the agency said.
What can be done to prevent it?
Like other enteroviruses, the respiratory illness appears to spread through close contact with infected people. That makes children more susceptible.
There’s not a great deal you can do, health officials say, beyond taking commonsense step precautions to reduce the risk.
Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, particularly after going to the bathroom and changing diapers. Avoid shaking hands, kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick. And stay home if you feel unwell. Wash children’s toys, and use antibacterial sanitizers at parks and playgrounds.
According to the CDC, there is no vaccine for EV-D68.
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