A fast-spreading virus related to hand-foot-and-mouth disease is hospitalizing kids across the nation and causing quite a panic among parents of children everywhere.
The virus, Enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, is part of a group of entrovirus that includes coxsackie viruses, echo viruses, polio viruses, the hepatitis A virus and EV-68. Although these viruses are common, they are more likely to cause illnesses in infants, children and teens who haven’t developed immunity against the virus, and people with weakened immune systems.
How do you catch it?
These germs can live on surfaces for hours and maybe as long as 24-36 hours. The “entero-“ part of their name means the viruses can survive stomach acid and infect the gut, as opposed to the rhinoviruses (like the common cold), which can’t. Touching a contaminated surface and then rubbing your nose or eyes is the usual way someone catches it. You can also get it from close person-to-person contact.
Common disinfectants and detergents will kill enteroviruses, keeping hands and commonly touched surfaces will help stop the spread of the disease also keep your children home if they display symptoms.
What are the symptoms of D68 infection?
What’s different with this virus than others is that the usual tell-tale virus symptoms are relatively mild at first, allowing the disease to spread.
Most kids who are infected with EV-68 will have the following cold-like symptoms:
• runny nose
• breathing difficulty
• muscle aches
These symptoms should be watched closely, but do not require emergency medical care. However, if your child has a history of asthma and develops these cold-like symptoms, you should contact your pediatrician.
Who’s at greatest risk?
Recent cases have been in children ages 6 months to 16 years, with most hovering around ages 4 and 5, the CDC says.
And while many kids are coming down with milder symptoms, the virus seems to be hitting children with a history of breathing problems particularly hard.
How do you treat Entrovirus 68?
Because it’s caused by a virus, and not bacteria, antibiotics don’t help. There is no vaccine to prevent it and no antiviral medication to treat it. Most kids who get D68 infections will just need extra TLC, including lots of rest and plenty of fluids. It is important to keep your child out of school until the symptoms are gone for at least 24 hours.
In some cases children with asthma or breathing issues are being hospitalized to monitor the respiratory distress the virus can cause.