As many of you have probably heard on the news or read about on the internet, there is a respiratory virus that is rapidly spreading across the country. The virus is called Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). According to the most recent data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the virus has been documented in over 1,100 children across 47 states from mid-August until October 28, 3014 and Louisiana is one of those states. In fact, two cases were confirmed here in Baton Rouge during the month of September.
What are the symptoms of Enterovirus D68?
As with other common cold viruses, EV-D68 typically begins with runny nose, cough and sometimes fever (the majority of cases have not had fever though). This virus differs from the common cold in that these initial symptoms rapidly progress in some children to cause difficulty breathing and wheezing. Children with a history of asthma are probably more likely to have these more severe symptoms, but many documented cases of wheezing have occurred in children who have never had prior wheezing episodes.
How is the virus spread?
EV-D68 is spread by respiratory droplets meaning coughing, sneezing or saliva. It is important to have good hand hygiene and wash hands thoroughly with soap and water throughout the day especially prior to eating or after coughing or sneezing. It is important to note that alcohol based hand sanitizers do not rid the hands of this virus. If your child is sick with cold symptoms, they should not be around other children especially in the daycare or school setting. Finally, disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as toys or doorknobs especially if someone has cold-like symptoms.
Who needs to see their doctor if they are having the above symptoms?
For those children who have a cough and runny nose but are otherwise happy, playful, eating well and sleeping well, close observation by parents is all that is required. In many cases, your child probably has a “typical” cold virus. However, if your child has a history of asthma or of needing breathing treatments or if they are having a first time occurrence of wheezing, then I recommend erring on the side of caution and bringing your child to their doctor sooner rather than later. Any child with difficulty breathing needs to have immediate medical attention.
Is there a test for this virus?
Unlike flu test or strep test, there is no in office, rapid test for this virus. This means that doctor’s offices and most emergency rooms cannot rapidly test for EV-D68. In mid October, the CDC did release a new, faster test that is being used for those specimens sent to the CDC for testing which will allow for results much sooner than was possible for earlier tests. In general, testing is only being down on those children who are hospitalized with symptoms. Again, because this is a specialized test, it is not something that can easily be done in your doctor’s office.
Is there a vaccine for this virus?
No, at this time there is no vaccine for this virus.
What is the treatment?
Given that EV-D68 is a virus, the mainstay of treatment is symptomatic care. Most children will require rest, increased fluids, and close observation. For those children who may have more severe respiratory symptoms such as wheezing or difficulty breathing, breathing treatments, supplemental oxygen, and hospitalization may be required. This, of course, can only be determined by your child’s doctor. Antibiotics will not help with EV-D68 because it is a virus.
In conclusion, any outbreaks of illness that predominately affect children can be scary for parents, and I think that sometimes media coverage of such illnesses can further increase the anxiety parents might be feeling. The most important thing that we as parents can do in situations such as this is arm ourselves with the most up to date and scientific based information so that we can provide the best care to our children. For more information on the EV-D68 outbreak, visit http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/about/EV-D68.html or http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/infections/Pages/Reports-of-a-Severe-Respiratory-Illness-on-the-Rise.aspx