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Enterovirus D68: What Parents Need to Know

Enterovirus: What Parents Need to Know Enterovirus: What Parents Need to Know

A group of viruses known as enteroviruses, which includes enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), cause about 10 to 15 million infections each year in the United States. Usually, they spread most in the late summer or early fall. Enteroviruses other than EV-D68 can cause childhood illnesses such as hand, foot & mouth disease, meningitis and encephalitis.

EV-D68 can cause respiratory symptoms from the common cold to serious breathing problems.

Signs of EV-D68 range from a routine cold to more serious asthma-like symptoms with wheezing and difficulty breathing. Infants, children with asthma and those with weak immune systems have a greater chance of breathing problems and complications; some requiring treatment in the intensive care unit.

Reports of EV-D68 linked to acute flaccid myelitis

Cases of rhinoviruses and/or enteroviruses (EVs), including EV-D68 in children, have been reported across several regions of the country. In children, symptoms of EV-D68 can include severe respiratory illness and has been associated with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare but serious complication involving limb weakness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising parents to contact their child's health care provider right away if their child has trouble breathing or sudden symptoms of limb weakness. Anyone with asthma is at increased risk of serious illness—the CDC is urging that ensure their child's asthma action plan is up to date (see more, below).

How EV-D68 spreads

EV-D68 is spread by the respiratory route when in contact an infected person. You can also become infected by touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

Information for parents of children with asthma

This virus is particularly hard on children's lungs. Therefore, it is especially important for parents of children previously diagnosed with asthma to:
  • Help your child follow their asthma action plan.

  • Communicate with your child's pediatrician or subspecialist to plan ahead for times when symptoms may need urgent medical care.

  • Take prescribed asthma medications as directed, especially long-term control medication(s).

  • Keep the reliever (rescue) medication (inhaler or nebulizer) on hand.

  • Get the seasonal influenza vaccine as soon as vaccine is available, because an influenza infection in the lungs can trigger asthma attacks and a worsening of asthma symptoms.

  • Make sure the child's caregiver and/or teacher is aware of his condition, and that they know how to avoid asthma triggers and what to do if the child experiences any symptoms related to asthma.

  • Although no children should be exposed to secondhand smoke, it is especially important to prohibit smoking in homes and cars where children with asthma live.

If your child is experiencing symptoms

  • Children with a high fever and those with cold symptoms lasting longer than 7-10 days should talk with their pediatrician.

  • Those with difficulty breathing or sudden limb weakness should seek emergency care.

Tips to reduce the risk of EV-D68 infection

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.

  • Avoid touching, eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Wear a mask in public—especially if at high risk of serious illness from infections.

  • 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.

  • Stay home when sick.

Remember, enteroviruses are different from the flu!

To protect against the flu virus, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children ages six months and older be get their flu vaccine at the earliest possible time.

More information

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American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2022)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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