Hundreds of children in the Midwest and the South are showing symptoms of a rare respiratory illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Enterovirus D68 causes about 10 to 15 million infections in the United States each year, and many hospitals are seeing patients this year.
What are the symptoms of Enterovirus D68?
Symptoms are similar to those of a cold or asthma and include:
- Difficulty breathing
Nalini Singh, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s National Health System, said children with asthma or less than 5 years old are more vulnerable to the virus. Dr. Singh said that this strain appears to prey on “weakened respiratory health.” Allergies, she said, do not appear to play a role.
Dr. Singh said this strain is usually seen in late summer or early fall. It is related to the rhinovirus and more than 70 other enteroviruses, which are responsible for the common cold. Yet this strain is very rare.
How is it transmitted?
Transmission may occur through close contact with an infected person or by touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them and touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
What can parents do?
Dr. Singh recommended hand washing and practicing good personal hygiene. There is neither a vaccine nor specific treatment for the virus other than treating the symptoms.
The CDC recommends protecting yourself and others from the virus by:
- Washing hands frequently especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- Cleaning frequently touched surfaces
What should I do if I think my child has Enterovirus D68?
Dr. Singh says that if a child has the virus, the illness can escalate quickly. If your child has the symptoms listed above and you suspect your child may have the virus, contact your pediatrician right away.
For more information, watch Dr. Singh's interview with ABC7.