It’s making headlines across the country, a rare type of enterovirus – EV-D68 – that primarily causes respiratory illness. As of September 9, 2014, cases affecting children and teenagers in Missouri and Illinois have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and several other states are reporting possible cases as well.
Symptoms related to EV-D68 include mild to severe respiratory illness. The virus usually starts like the common cold; symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose and a cough. These are all symptoms of an enterovirus. Yet, with EV-D68, patients will get a severe cough, have difficulty breathing and/or develop a rash. EV-D68 is sometimes also accompanied by a fever or wheezing. The full spectrum of EV-D68 illness is not yet well defined.
A vaccine for EV-D68 is not currently available, and there are no specific treatments. Some people with severe respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 may need to be hospitalized and receive intensive supportive therapy.
Like other enteroviruses, this illness is likely spread from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches contaminated surfaces. According to health officials, taking commonsense steps to reduce the risk is your best approach to preventing infection. The following are the recommendations from the CDC:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers;
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
- Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick; and
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
The increase of EV-D68 cases is a good reminder there are many times you should wash or sanitize your hands to help prevent illness and infection. Important steps for good hand hygiene are to wash or sanitize your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:
- Before preparing food;
- Before eating;
- Before and after caring for someone that is sick or around someone that is ill;
- After using the bathroom;
- After sneezing or coughing; and
- After touching anything that may be a transmission vector of infection causing germs, such as subway railings, grocery carts, diapers, raw food, animals and trash.