What you need to know about Enterovirus D68

Parents and doctors around the country are being alerted to an increase in respiratory illness among children due to an outbreak of a serious virus.  The virus strain is called Enterovirus D68 and has sent dozens of children in Chicago and Kansas City to the hospital.

The D68 strain of enterovirus can cause severe respiratory problems, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing. This virus is really not rare; it commonly affects the GI tract and sometimes causes what is, for all intents and purposes, a severe cold. It is not a shock that this is cropping up now:  after all, we’re one week into the school season and that’s a pretty normal way for viruses to spread.

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Symptoms to look for

The Minnesota Department of Health says the symptoms linked to clusters of the enterovirus D68 are all upper respiratory problems. The symptoms are that of a common cold: sneezing, runny nose, feeling crummy, occasional fever, wheezing, shortness of breath and asthmatic symptoms. Infants, children and teenagers are most often affected. It typically runs its course in about a week.

As it is a virus, there is no specific treatment for this illness. Doctors and parents can only provide treatment for relief of symptoms.

When to call a doctor

If your child begins to wheeze or has any difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention. Also seek care from your doctor if symptoms are accompanied by a fever.

How it spreads

The virus spreads through saliva and mucous during coughing and sneezing. Touching infected surfaces and then touching your face, eyes or mouth can also spread the disease, making hand washing even more important.

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soapy water and disinfect toys, doorknobs and other surfaces that might harbor the virus. Avoid kissing, hugging, sharing items with sick people and stay home if you feel sick.

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Steve Meisel, Pharm.D., CPPS, Director of Patient Safety , Fairview Health Services

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