By Smarty Guest Blogger, Dr. Rebecca Alkire, a board certified pediatrician in practice at SouthEnd Pediatrics.
You can’t turn on the TV without seeing news about enterovirus D68, well, at least now that the election is over. What is this mysterious virus that is causing illness in children across the country? Why have we never heard about this virus before? What can we do to protect our children and ourselves? All of these questions and more are on the minds of parents and caregivers.
To most, enterovirus D68 was an unknown virus until a few months ago. Influenza, on the other hand, is a virus that everyone old enough to talk has heard about! The two are very similar, so it seems a good place to start the introduction to enterovirus D68.
Both enterovirus D68 and influenza typically cause runny nose, coughing, sneezing, fever, and body aches. Some, especially those with asthma, experience wheezing, and difficulty breathing. The viruses are spread by respiratory secretions, which means that if an infected person sneezes, coughs, or touches a surface, the virus can be spread to others.
More than you ever wanted to know about enterovirus D68 (EV-D68)
EV-D68 is one of over 100 enteroviruses and was first identified in 1962 (that’s right, it’s not a new virus). Every year, different types of enteroviruses cause illness, and different types are common each year. EV-D68 has been reported every year since 1987. It typically peaks in the summer and declines in late fall. In August of this year, the CDC was notified by a hospital in Kansas City, MO and one in Chicago, IL that they had a higher than expected rate of children admitted for severe respiratory illness. The CDC identified EV-D68 in 30 out of 36 of those patients. From that time until November 6, 2014, 1,116 cases have been reported in the United States. North Carolina had 18 confirmed cases as of October 24. Sadly, 11 people have died with confirmed EV-D68.
How does this compare to the flu?
There are three types of influenza and several subtypes. Each year the type that circulates can change and it can vary in severity, but on average, 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized EVERY YEAR with influenza. Tragically, there were more than 100 flu-related deaths in children during the 2013-2014 season.
How can you protect yourself and those you care about?
To help prevent the spread of EV-D68, influenza, and all respiratory illnesses, the CDC recommends:
– Hand-washing with soap and water for 20 seconds
– Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
– Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick
– Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue
– Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs
– Stay home when you are sick
Since children with asthma are at higher risk of severe respiratory symptoms, it is very important for these children to take their prescribed medications and to talk to their doctors about having an asthma action plan in place.
Putting it into perspective:
Yes, enterovirus D68 is scary, it’s in the news, children are getting sick, and we’ve never heard of it before! But let’s not forget that it’s not new, and it’s no worse than other viruses that we are very familiar with. When you compare the statistics of enterovirus D68 to those of influenza, you realize that we have dealt with much worse. Fortunately, there’s a vaccine for influenza!
Dr. Rebecca Alkire is a board certified pediatrician in practice at SouthEnd Pediatrics. She and Dr. Christi Bartell provide all aspects of pediatric care from diapers to college! Together they have over 20 years of experience practicing pediatric medicine. SouthEnd Pediatrics does have flu vaccines for new and established patients. They also offer viral testing, to identify influenza and the enterovirus family, although it doesn’t specify the type of enterovirus.
For more information on SouthEnd Pediatrics:
325 Arlington Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28203
Monday-Friday: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Located in the pink building on South Boulevard. Free parking is available on level three of the parking deck.