To date, five children across the U.S. have died from the virus and more than 660 cases in 45 states and the District of Columbia have been confirmed, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC says it is likely many more people are infected with Enterovirus D68 but are not being tested for the virus because they are experiencing milder symptoms like a runny nose.
No vaccine or other prevention is available to protect against Enterovirus D68. Also, once the infection starts, no therapy has been shown to be effective. So it’s important to talk to your children about avoiding infection – and to take the same precautions as well.
Here are tips for adults and children alike from pediatric pulmonologist Giovanni Piedimonte, MD, Chairman of Cleveland Clinic Pediatric Institute and Physician-in-Chief of Cleveland Clinic Children’s on how to avoid getting or spreading Enterovirus D68.
- Avoid close contact with sick people
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after contact with any potentially infected object or with other individuals with flu-like symptoms.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
- Clean and disinfect surfaces
- Stay home from school or work if you become sick
Symptoms of Enterovirus D68 infection include cough, runny nose and shortness of breath. Importantly, the symptoms are virtually indistinguishable from illnesses caused by other more common respiratory viruses like the flu, Dr. Piedimonte says. Fever is present in only a small number of cases.
“Children with asthma or other chronic airway obstruction are likely to experience a worsening of wheezing and an increased need for their rescue medications such as albuterol,” Dr. Piedimonte says.
Talk to your pediatrician if your child develops any sort of illness beyond mild nasal congestion with a mild cough, Dr. Piedimonte says.
If your child develops flu-like symptoms and seems to be getting worse, Dr. Piedimonte says, contact your pediatrician right away or go to the closest emergency room.
“This is because the symptoms may rapidly worsen and the child may need oxygen and other medical interventions,” Dr. Piedimonte says. “Waiting too long to seek medical care puts a child infected with Enterovirus D68 at higher risk to develop a severe oxygen deficit and to require intensive care.”