Enterovirus D68 in CT? What Parents Need to Know

image courtesy CDC

Just this past Wednesday, Sept. 17, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed the first case of Enterovirus D68 here in Connecticut.

As the school year begins, many children are coming down with colds. So, how do you know if your child has a run-of-the-mill cold or something more serious? Here’s what parents need to know about Enterovirus D68 as per the CDC:

What is Enterovirus D68?

Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is one of many non-polio enteroviruses. This virus was first identified in California in 1962, but it has not been commonly reported in the United States.

What are the symptoms?

EV-D68 can cause mild to severe respiratory illness.

  • Mild symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches.
  • Severe symptoms include coughing continuously, shortness of breath or breathing fast, wheezing and inability to sleep. Many children who have already contracted the virus had asthma or a history of wheezing.
How does the virus spread?

Since EV-D68 causes respiratory illness, the virus can be found in an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum. EV-D68 likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches contaminated surfaces.

Who is most susceptible?

Children, particularly those under five and who have respiratory troubles, such as allergies or asthma, are more at risk.

How is the virus diagnosed? 

A doctor will take a swab from a patient’s throat or nose and send the specimen off to a lab.

How do you differentiate the virus from the common cold?

If there’s no shortness of breath, no difficulty breathing, no wheezing or extremely high fever, there would be no reason to go and seek help. But if it’s affecting the breathing in those ways, then it’s time to get help.

Are there ways to prevent it?

Hand washing and hand hygiene are the best way to prevent the spread of the virus.

Much like trying to prevent the spread of a cold or flu, people should avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. It’s also important to frequently disinfect touched surfaces, such as toys, remote controls, light switches and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.

Is there a cure?

There is no vaccine, anti-viral or penicillin-like treatment for the virus. But there are supportive treatments to deal with the symptoms including extra oxygen and medications to counteract the wheezing.

How serious is the virus?

Most children will react to the virus like they have a common cold, exhibiting mild or no symptoms at all. Fewer than 10-percent of the cases that have presented themselves in the ER have been admitted but, of those cases, 10–15 percent have been put on ventilators, which is unusually high.

Parents often struggle with the question of whether to “bother” a doctor in the middle of the night but if you are at all concerned, always err on the side of caution.

Wilton resident Alison Jacobson is a national spokesperson about safety, better known as the Safety Mom. She has a website and blog and often makes media appears on a variety of family-related issues.