By Tiffany Crouse
A respiratory virus is invading the Midwest. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the symptoms of this virus are “cold-like.” These symptoms include mild respiratory illness, fever, rash, aseptic meningitis and encephalitis. This virus is a non-polio enterovirus called EV-D68.
“EV-D68 was first identified in California in 1962. Compared with other enteroviruses, EV-D68 has been rarely reported in the United States for the last 40 years,” the CDC published. This relatively unknown virus is sweeping through the Midwest. It has appeared in 10 states according to CNN: Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Colorado, Oklahoma, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Kansas.
The CDC says that Missouri and Illinois have the most prominent number of children that are being sent to the ICU with EV-D68. “Recently, a pediatric hospital in Kansas City, MO., has experienced over 300 cases of respiratory illnesses in their facility. Approximately 15 percent of those illnesses have resulted in children being placed in an intensive care unit,” said Gail Vasterling, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
On Aug. 23 the CDC confirmed that 19 of those children were diagnosed with an extreme case of EV- D68. All of the patients where under the age of 16 and all had trouble breathing. According to the CDC 68 percent of the people diagnosed had previous issues with asthma and wheezing. This was due to abnormal substances found in the children’s lungs. Most of them had a partial or completely collapsed lung.
Similar problems were seen in Chicago. Three quarters of the city’s eleven affected children under the age of 5 have had a previous history of asthma or wheezing. “Health Care providers should be concerned about EV-D68 as a possible cause of acute, unexplained severe respiratory illness,” wrote the CDC. EV-D68 had not had a major breakout like this in its known existence. Between 2009 and 2013, the National Enterovirus Surveillance System received only 79 reports of EV- D68.
There is no specific treatment and no known antiviral medications available for EV-D68. The CDC urges people to prevent themselves and their children from getting this virus.
It is allegedly transmitted through respiratory fluids, saliva, mucus, or spit. Although this is what is believed, the CDC says “this is not as well understood as other enteroviruses… It likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs sneezes, or touches contaminated surfaces.”
The best ways to protect yourself and your children are to wash your hands, to avoid touching your eyes/nose/mouth with unwashed hands, and to sanitize your countertops, phones and door knobs. They also say to avoid hugging, kissing, or sharing cups or utensils with anyone who is or may be sick. In order to prevent the spreading of EV-D68, the CDC urges people to stay home if they feel they are sick.
“Enteroviruses are very common viruses. There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses. It is estimated that 10 to 15 million enterovirus infections occur in the United States each year. Most people infected with enteroviruses have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, but some infections can be serious,” said Director Vasterling. The CDC says health care professionals should be on the lookout for EV- D68 but do not need to report the cases.