A serious viral infection has spread from the Midwest across the country, hospitalizing hundreds of kids and possibly infecting thousands of others. Speaking to CNN, Mark Pallansch, a virologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this wave of infections is probably the “tip of the iceberg.”
The illness is caused by the enterovirus, a common virus that causes cold-like symptoms, according to the CDC. This outbreak appears to be the work of a relatively uncommon strain of enterovirus known as EV-D68, better known as enterovirus D68.
The virus is spread much like the common cold—in fact, enterovirus is a common cause of the “summer cold.” Transmission can occur through contact with infected people and/or body fluids, including droplets spread through sneezing and coughing. Door knobs, desks, and the surfaces of shared toys can all harbor the virus.
Enterovirus D68 begins like a common cold, with mild respiratory symptoms including sneezing and coughing. In a small portion of people, symptoms progress rapidly, and within hours of onset, some infected children can experience severe symptoms. Children with asthma or other chronic lung diseases are at greatest risk for severe disease, but it can occur in just about anyone.
Colorado, Kansas, and Illinois have all reported an increase in the number of children who required hospital admission and even intensive care. Because EV-D68 is a virus, antibiotics cannot be used to prevent or treat the disease. Instead, treatment is focused on providing relief from the symptoms, including oxygen, to help the child breathe when necessary. According to CNN, about 15 percent of the children in Missouri hospitalized for respiratory viruses since mid-August have been placed into an intensive care unit. So far, no fatalities have been reported.
Other news sources say that enterovirus D68 cases have been confirmed in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Denver. In Kansas City, healthcare officials have reported 450 children with respiratory illnesses, while Quincy, Illinois, reported 70 children complaining of respiratory symptoms visiting the hospital, according to CBS News. Samples from these children have been sent for identification to determine just how many cases are due to enterovirus D68.
As of mid-September, 10 states have asked for assistance in dealing with this outbreak: Colorado, North Carolina, George, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. Parents are encouraged to take steps to reduce the chance of contact, including avoiding symptomatic people and practice good hand-washing by washing with a mild soap for 20 seconds at a time several times each day. If your child is ill, keep them home from daycare or school to avoid infecting others. If the child’s symptoms seem more severe than those of the common cold, seek medical attention.
- Enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, is an uncommon strain of enterovirus that has recently broken out in the Midwest.
- The virus is spread much like the common cold and cannot be cured with antibiotics.
- Transmission can occur through contact with infected people and/or body fluids, including droplets spread through sneezing and coughing.