Enterovirus-D68, what is going on with this virus?

If you’ve watched the news at all recently you’ve probably heard, in between the Ebola updates, about an outbreak of respiratory virus Enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68) in the US that may or may not have contributed to the deaths of some infected children. The only death where EV-D68 has been confirmed to have played a role has been in a New Jersey 4 yr old who died the end of September.

The 2014 outbreak of EV-D68 is the largest national outbreak of this virus ever recorded. All states, including the District of Columbia, except Hawaii, Alaska, Nevada and Arizona have reported at least one laboratory confirmed case of EV-D68. EV-D68 was originally discovered in California in 1962 and is one of over 100 non-polio enteroviruses. As with all respiratory viruses, EV-D68 spreads through coughing, sneezing, etc. and small numbers of EV-D68 cases have been reported every year since 1987.

In the beginning of the outbreak it seemed that the severe symptoms of EV-D68 were presenting in kids with a history of asthma, although we now know that a significant portion of kids without asthma are experiencing serious complications as well.

So if your kid is sick with a cold, runny nose, sneezing, and fever what should you do? Well don’t panic is the first step. The laboratory test for EV-D68 is very specialized so the tests are only done by state labs or the CDC, so please don’t run to the doctor and demand a quick answer. Because there are only a few labs that are running these tests they are prioritizing only the kids with the most severe symptoms, including wheezing and difficulty breathing.

How can you prevent your child from getting this infection you ask? The number one recommended way to prevent EV-D68 is a tried and true public health prevention method, WASH YOUR HANDS. There is  no vaccine for this, so don’t bother asking. And since this is a viral infection, antibiotics won’t do you any good, so no need to ask for those either.

EV-D68 prevention tips courtesy of the CDC

EV-D68 prevention tips courtesy of the CDC

Well if there’s no vaccine and no real treatment for EV-D68 infection, what the heck is the CDC doing? A couple things actually, such as surveillance on the reported cases to understand exactly how widespread this outbreak is, providing up-to-date information to state and local public health departments, and developing a diagnostic test.

Now comes the kicker. Poliovirus is an enterovirus. And some people may have heard that some kids who are exhibiting unexplainable flaccid paralysis have also tested positive for EV-D68. While this may be true in a few cases, other kids exhibiting the same or similar paralysis did not test positive for EV-D68. So I think we can safely say, with the information we have at the moment, EV-D68 is not the new polio.

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