The recent enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) outbreak in the United States has had millions of people on alert, with rumors flying that polio might be making a comeback. Thankfully, the polio part is not true, but here’s what you need to know about this virus to try and stay out of its path.
Since the virus mainly affects the lungs and respiratory system, it spreads to others through body fluids from the mouth and nose when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or wipes their face and then touches another object.
Therefore, frequent hand washing, minimal exposure to sick people, and avoiding contact with your eyes, mouth, and nose are the best methods of prevention.
There are actually over a hundred types of enteroviruses that plague people throughout the year and cause a whole array of symptoms. Enterovirus D68 in particular was recognized in 1987 and since then it has been harassing small numbers of people annually, mostly during the summer and fall months. This year, however, the virus has been unusually active – about 780 people spread out between 46 states – especially amongst children.
Most people who contract the virus will have typical flu-like indicators: body aches, coughing, sneezing, fever, etc. The more severe and serious symptoms include wheezing, difficulty breathing or rashes and in a few extreme cases, children have experienced paralysis in their limbs.
Yes and no. For most, this virus is the same as any other flu that makes you feel terrible for a few days and then clears up on its own. However, children with prior respiratory problems seem to be more susceptible to developing advanced symptoms and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now linked the virus to the deaths of five children and hundreds of others that have needed hospitalization.
On October 14, 2014, the CDC announced a new test that identifies the D86 strain quicker than before, but unfortunately, there is neither a vaccination to prevent it nor an antiviral medication to cure it.
Even though there’s no rapid treatment, those exhibiting enterovirus D68 symptoms should get checked out and tested by their doctor. If infected, medical professionals can provide intensive respiratory support and monitor patients closely to minimize symptoms.