You may have heard about the virus causing breathing problems and even possibly associated with rare limb weakness/paralysis. I know that the news sounds scary—as a mother myself, I’ve been taking heed. But while you should take steps to protect your family, you do NOT need to panic. So, what do you really need to know, should you be worried, and what can you do to keep your family safe?
What is it? The virus, Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is from a family of viruses that typically cause conditions ranging from the common cold to a fever and a rash, to neurologic problems. While 10-15 million people a year in the US get infected with enteroviruses, the virus is usually benign and self-limited. What’s unusual about this particular strain is that it seems to be affecting children especially.
What’s the update? Since mid-August, we’ve seen an increase in children with respiratory (breathing) problems due to viral illness—many of which were found to have EV-D68. We’ve recently seen 10 children that presented with muscle weakness. Of them, 6 tested positive for enterovirus and 4 specifically for EV-D68.
I heard on the news that EV-D68 is causing paralysis—is this true? While enterovirus is known to potentially cause neurologic problems, we still don’t know if these symptoms were caused by the virus. There was a similar cluster of children with partial paralysis last year in California—2 of which tested positive for EV-D68. Again, we just don’t know exactly why these children are having these symptoms. But, we HAVE to remember—every year 10-15 million people are infected with enterovirus. So, while it’s scary, it still remains extremely unlikely that one would develop neurologic symptoms.
What should I do to prevent my family from getting sick? Since there’s no vaccine for the virus (or specific curative treatment), it’s the common sense stuff.
- If your child is in daycare or school, ask their caregivers about their policies there for cleaning and sending sick children home.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds (especially after going to the bathroom or changing diapers)—teach children about singing “Happy Birthday” while they wash—it will make it more of a game and something they may be willing to do!
- Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly touched by multiple people
- Stay home (or keep your child home) if you/he is sick!
- Avoid sharing eating utensils/cups or close contact with anyone who is sick
- Avoid touching your hand/nose/eyes/mouth/face with unwashed hands
If your child has asthma, develops breathing difficulties, is refusing to eat or drink, or just looks worrisome to you, then speak with your pediatrician.
REMEMBER—in the vast majority of cases, even if your child is infected with enterovirus, they’ll just get a cold and be better after a few days. Keep them home and let them rest, and they’ll be back to their rambunctious selves in no time.