Know the Facts
Enteroviruses are a large family of viruses that are responsible for many infections during the summer and early fall, mostly in children. The viruses survive in the intestinal tract and often spread to other parts of the body causing a wide variety of illnesses.
Most people who contract enteroviruses might have mild cold symptoms, such as:
- Runny nose
- Mouth sores
- Skin rash
- Body aches
Recently there has been an outbreak of the virus that has resulted in high numbers of hospitalizations. The virus that is causing these severe infections is enterovirus EV-D68.
Similar to other enteroviruses, EV-D68 starts out much like the common cold. What makes EV-D68 different from other, more common, enteroviruses is that it can cause more severe respiratory problems, such as cough, trouble breathing, and wheezing.
EV-D68 is not well defined because it is not frequently identified, so researchers do not study it often. Since EV-D68 causes respiratory illnesses, the virus can be found in respiratory secretions such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum. It is likely that EV-D68 spreads from person to person through touching contaminated surfaces and then rubbing our eyes and nose with unwashed hands or through contact with droplets from coughing or sneezing.
Since EV-D68 is a virus, there are no specific treatments to cure it. Mild cases typically only require treatment of the symptoms with over-the-counter medications, such as decongestants. More severe cases, mostly in those with a history of wheezing or asthma, may need to be hospitalized and receive supportive respiratory therapy. Enteroviruses are usually not deadly so, with proper care, infected persons usually get better after the virus runs its course.
There are no vaccines to prevent EV-D68, so taking preventative measures is important to help stop the spread of infection:
- Wash hands frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid kissing or sharing cups or utensils with sick people
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick