Mysterious Kids' Respiratory Virus Spreading Fast & Now Parents Are at Risk

woman coughing respiratory illness

A terrifying virus has been sweeping the Midwest: Enterovirus-D68, or EV-D68, has sent hundreds of children to the hospital in Missouri in the past couple of weeks. And it looks like the virus has spread to at least 10 other states.

"It's worse in terms of scope of critically ill children who require intensive care. I would call it unprecedented. I've practiced for 30 years in pediatrics, and I've never seen anything quite like this," Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, division director for infectious diseases at Mercy Children's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, told CNN.

But it's not just children and parents who should be worried about this virus. Here's everything you need to know about EV-D68 to protect yourself, your family, and help prevent its spread.

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1. Enterovirus a summer common cold. It usually peaks in September. EV-D68 is a particular strain of that virus.

2. A spike in reported cases of EV-D68 was first reported in mid-August. This suggests that the virus spread when school started.

3. What's unusual about this virus is how many people it's sending to the hospital. In Missouri it's been sending 30 children a day, with 15 percent ending up in intensive care. Children are vulnerable because they are unlikely to have built up an immunity to the virus. But adults with asthma or other illnesses are also at risk.

4. Hospitals have reported cases of suspected EV-D68 in 10 states so far: Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Kentucky.

5. From the time it was first identified in 1960, there had been only 100 reported cases of EV-D68 -- that is, until this most recent outbreak.

6. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for the virus.

7. Symptoms are similar to the common cold, at least at first. EV-D68 begins like any other kind of cold, with sneezing, runny nose, and a cough. For some patients it can escalate into wheezing, a fever, rash, or severe cough. Contact your physician immediately if your child experiences any of these more severe symptoms.

8. What you can do. "For now, hand washing is critical," says Dr. Aaron Glatt, Chief Administrative Officer at Mercy Medical Center, who specializes in infectious diseases. That means with soap and water for 20 seconds. "If symptoms worsen or you have any breathing difficulties, see your physician."

The Centers for Disease Control also recommends avoiding close contact with people who are sick and cleaning and disinfecting contaminated objects and surfaces.

9. EV-D68 does not affect only children. "This is especially important if you have asthma or another underlying illness," Dr. Glatt adds. So those of you with compromised immune systems or who have asthma (yikes, that's me!) also need to be especially watchful of your hygiene and any cold symptoms.

Has EV-D68 hit your community yet? Are you worried?

 

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