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What we know about the respiratory virus EV-D68 (Enterovirus D68)

Enterovirus d68In late August, Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., began seeing an unusual number of children experiencing respiratory problems. The patients tested positive on a respiratory panel administered by the hospital, but that panel could not identify the specific virus. Staff sent the samples to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for further analysis. The CDC determined that the patients were suffering from Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).

There are about 100 different types of Enterovirus. From June to October every year, some type of Enterovirus usually circulates in the United States. If you’ve ever had a summer cold, it was probably caused by an Enterovirus. EV-D68 specifically is something we don’t typically see in the U.S., but it has been around since the 1960s.

While we’ve seen an increase in patient volume at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital emergency department and in our Intensive Care Unit, we cannot conclusively say that these patients have EV-D68. The only way to know is to have lab samples examined by the CDC, which we are working on now.

Does my child have Enterovirus D68?

Symptoms of Enterovirus D68Many children who are infected with EV-D68 will only experience cold symptoms while others may have respiratory issues that require breathing treatments or even hospitalization. If your child is sick, contact your healthcare provider. While there is no medication that can stop or prevent the virus, there are treatment options to help manage the symptoms.

Anecdotally, hospitals have seen an increase number of patients with these symptoms about a week after school starts. That’s when Kansas City experienced its greatest volume, and the same for Chicago. It’s not surprising that we are seeing an increase in patients with these symptoms now in Michigan since school recently started.

Like all Enteroviruses, EV-D68 has an incubation period of three to six days and symptoms typically last for five to 10 days. Traditionally, viruses peak in severity around the second or third day, but we’re not sure if that is true with EV-D68, as we’re still learning about this specific type of virus.

How can I protect my child from Enterovirus D68?

Enteroviruses can be spread through saliva or fecal matter. We don’t know yet which way EV-D68 is spread. The best way to stay healthy and prevent the spread of EV-D68 and other viruses is to

  • wash your hands regularly (or use an alcohol-based antibacterial gel)
  • cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm
  • avoid contact with others who are ill
  • remind your children to wash their hands regularly throughout the day

It’s almost flu season as well, so it’s good to start practicing good hand hygiene now to prevent spreading or contracting EV-D68, the flu or another illness. Now is also a good time to get the flu vaccine for everyone in your family. It won’t protect against EV-D68, but it will help prevent the flu, which can also cause serious respiratory problems.

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Terri Stillwell MDTerri Stillwell, MD, serves as an Associate Hospital Epidemiologist carrying out various roles for infection control and prevention in Mott Children’s Hospital. Additionally, she is a member of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Team, which helps to improve antibiotic utilization throughout the hospital system. She is also an active member in the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, as well as the Pediatric and Infectious Diseases Communities of Practice for the American Society of Transplantation.

best children's hospitalUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” in 2014, and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine.