By now you’ve heard about enterovirus-68 (EV-68), the respiratory virus first discovered in California in 1962 that has not posed a health concern in the United States until this year.
As of Oct. 30, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 1,105 cases of EV-68 in 47 states and the District of Columbia.CDC expects that EV-68 will decline in prevalence by late fall, similar to other enteroviruses. The virus causes mild to severe respiratory illness and has hospitalized hundreds of children. Children between the ages of 4-12 with a history of asthma are particularly vulnerable and at risk for developing complications.
CDC is also investigating whether there’s a connection between EV-68, limb weakness and varying levels of paralysis experienced by some children in a Denver hospital.
While EV-68 symptoms mirror the common cold – occasional fever, runny nose, coughing, sneezing and body aches – it is more severe because symptoms can progress quickly to include wheezing and difficulty breathing, according to Bradley Chipps, MD, FACAAI, board-certified pediatric pulmonologist, allergist and immunologist in Sacramento and a medical editor for Allergy & Asthma Network.
“It hits really hard and it hits quick,” Dr. Chipps says. “It’s more than just a common cold.”
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) advises parents of children with asthma to closely monitor their child’s symptoms during an illness and how quickly symptoms worsen.
“If your child seems to be struggling to breathe and normal asthma medications aren’t working, get him or her to the emergency department as quickly as possible,” Dr. Chipps says. EV-68 can only be diagnosed through medical testing at a hospital or clinic, he adds.
CDC advises parents to make sure their child is continuing to take asthma medications as prescribed, particularly daily inhaled anti-inflammatories, and to carry a quick-relief bronchodilator inhaler at all times.
Talk with your child’s school nurse and teachers about what to do in case of illness or an asthma flare.
The virus is spread through coughing, sneezing, and touching contaminated surfaces. Preventive measures are the same as what’s recommended to avoid the flu or the common cold: wash hands often with soap and water; avoid sharing anything – cups, water bottles or eating utensils; and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces.