Enterovirus D68’ – another infectious disease gains momentum

Health officials are warning of yet again another infectious disease and this one is particularly dangerous to children. The virus, called the Enterovirus 68 or (EV-D68) is becoming widespread.

As classrooms fill with students and the weather begins to change, it is a common time of the year for viruses to peak. Health officials are warning of yet another infectious disease, and this one is particularly dangerous to children. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this could be a busy start to the 2014-15 winter flu season as the virus, Enterovirus 68 (EV-D68) is becoming widespread.

What are Enteroviruses?

There are more than 100 types of Enteroviruses causing about 10 to 15 million infections in the United States each year.

According to the CDC, Enteroviruses is associated with various clinical symptoms, including mild respiratory illness, febrile rash illness and neurologic illness, such as aseptic meningitis and encephalitis.

Anyone can become infected with Enteroviruses. Infants, children and teenagers and those with chronic conditions such as asthma are more likely to get infected and become sick. That's because they do not yet have immunity (protection) from previous exposures to the viruses or have weakened immunity.

What makes Enterovirus so harmful?

According to the CDC, Enterovirus is one of many non-polio Enteroviruses.

  • Highly infectious – Enterovirus common symptoms can spread quickly and become uncommonly dangerous very fast. Ten states have contacted the CDC for help investigating clusters of the virus that's being blamed for the illness. Several states are investigating clusters of children with severe respiratory illness, possibly due to Enterovirus.
  • Advances quickly – Enterovirus primarily causes respiratory distress. The Enterovirus infection can lead to severe respiratory symptoms like wheezing. The most important thing for parents to recognize with this virus is the signs of respiratory distress.

A common cold or Enterovirus?

Enterovirus can mimic symptoms of a mild cold (human rhinovirus) or (HRV) with a runny nose, coughing and wheezing. Because onsets of the symptoms are very similar to the common cold it may make this virus not as easy to identify. But, Enterovirus can quickly bring on severe respiratory distress and in many cases requires hospitalization to receive intensive supportive therapy. The virus typically causes illness lasting a week and most children recover with no lasting problems.

How does Enterovirus spread so quickly?

Because the Enterovirus will cause respiratory illness, the virus can be found in respiratory secretions such as saliva, nasal mucus or sputum. The virus likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches contaminated surfaces.

Who’s at the greatest risk?

  • Age groups at risk Children with asthma and other health problems are especially at risk for the Enterovirus. Severity of the respiratory symptoms from this virus are much worse for asthmatics; so much so that in more and more cases patients need ventilation. Aside from the high risk to asthmatics, those at particular high risk are the very young, and the elderly.
  • Other risk factors – Those with a chronic illness and diabetes also run a higher risk for the Enterovirus virus becoming more severed.


It is recommended for those in high risk groups to be in close contact with their doctors in case any of these viral symptoms become present.

The CDC reports there are no vaccines for preventing Enterovirus infections.

You can help protect yourself from respiratory illnesses by following these steps as advised by Michigan State University Extension:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick

For more information on health and wellness visit MSU Extension at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/chronic_disease.

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