Enterovirus – D68


Enterovirus – D68
Healthy Living - September 16, 2014
Amy Movius, MD

By now, almost everyone has heard of the virus that is making children sick in pockets around the country. These reports are scary and it is important to pay attention – but not panic. There have been no cases of this virus in Maine. Yet. The outbreaks in other parts of the country may (or may not) foreshadow similar outbreaks in Maine, so the knowledge of what is happening elsewhere is a great opportunity to educate ourselves on the situation. This can help families and health personnel act quickly should this virus make its way to our state. In this vein, the Maine Public Health Alert Network System issued an advisory to health care workers yesterday.

Enteroviruses are a family of, well, viruses. Enteroviruses are everywhere and can cause minimal to severe symptoms depending on the individual circumstances. In the United States, most people are infected with enteroviruses in the summer and fall. However, we don’t have much information about this specific enterovirus, EV-D68. EV-D68 was first identified in the 1960s but has been rarely reported since. The limited information we have from past infections suggest EV-D68 causes mostly problems with breathing. Last month, hospitals in both Missouri and Chicago asked the CDC to investigate increases in the number of children hospitalized with severe respiratory illnesses. Most of the patient samples tested by the CDC showed the presence of EV-D68. Many of the children tested required hospitalization in the pediatric intensive care unit. Affected patients have been between 6 weeks to 16 yrs. old, with an average age of 4-5 years. All patients had trouble with breathing and their oxygen levels, some had wheezing. There was usually NO fever. About 70% of them had a history of asthma or wheezing. Thankfully, no children have died. The CDC is looking at similar clusters of respiratory illness in 9 other states but the results of these aren’t yet back.

There is no vaccine to prevent this virus and no medication to treat it. As is usually the case to staying well, a good offense is the best defense. This often means good common sense. EV-D68 is likely spread by direct contact – think sneezing, coughing, and gooey surfaces. Frequent and thorough hand washing, sanitizing and disinfection of common surfaces can go a long way toward protecting against the spread of many infections. Likewise, not sharing food and utensils does the same.

If your child seems to get a “cold”, KEEP THEM HOME. This helps to prevent the spread of all infections. If their illness acts like a “normal cold”, do what you usually would. Encourage rest, fluids, and use over-the-counter medications for comfort. Don’t take your child to the doctor simply to see if they have EV-D68. You likely won’t get an answer (at least quickly) and risk spreading whatever infection your child has to other patients in the office. EV-D68 requires specialized testing which is usually done only on the sickest patients. On the other hand, if your child has any trouble breathing, you should absolutely seek prompt medical attention.


1. www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/about/EV-D68.html
2. www.cdc.gov/mmwr, Severe Respiratory Illness Associated with Enterovirus D68 – Missouri and Illinois, 2014, September 12, 2014/ 63(36); 798-799