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Enterovirus D68

Enterovirus Virions
Enterovirus under high magnification.

What is this Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68)?

  • It was first found in California in 1962, but has never really been associated with mass outbreaks of infection
  • Enteroviruses are related to polioviruses. There are many flavors of Enteroviruses, which generally cause rash, mouth sores, conjunctivitis, and sometimes more severe infections.
  • Since doctors generally don’t test for viruses in their patients, it is hard to tell how common the EV-D68 infection is. Some people may be very sick while other show no symptoms. There are a broad range of presentations.
  • This EV-D68 infection is acting like a common cold with a twist. It mostly causes runny nose, fever, muscle aches, and cough. However, occasionally it has led to severe respiratory failure.
  • As of September 15, states which have had the illness present included Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, and Missouri. It may be coming to a town near you soon.
  • The National Enterovirus Surveillance System through the CDC tracks such viral infections, but the disease is not reportable, so it will be difficult to assess it’s true impact and presence.
  • Since EV-D68 is acting like a common cold, the usual precautions should be taken among family members and coworkers with any respiratory illness: Don’t share utensils, avoid close contact, and wash your hands frequently. Stay away from sick people, especially if they have cancer, emphysema, or a transplant. Pregnant women and small infants should stay away from people with respiratory illnesses.
  • In all, this infection will pass through the communities in the East and Mid-West as schools have started and people are in close contact.  This will not result in any large scale catastrophes, but occasionally some patients, primarily in the 6 month to 16 year old range, will demonstrate more severe symptoms.
  • There is no vaccine available and no specific treatment other than measures to deal with associated conditions, such as wheezing or worsening asthma and fever. Antibiotics do not help. Good hygiene is important to prevent spread of the virus.

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