How Serious Is This Enterovirus D68, and Should Parents Be Worried?

Flu allergy. Sick girl sneezing in tissue. Health
Since mid-August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 104 cases of Enterovirus D68 in 11 states, but the CDC says that the real number of cases is probably higher. Though enteroviruses are typically none too serious, many parents are wondering whether they should worry about D68.Enteroviruses are quite common, particularly in early fall. The CDC estimates that between 10 million and 15 million enterovirus infections happen each year in the United States. Often times, these viruses are mistaken for the common cold, as they cause sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose, and can be handled without needing any treatment.

However, Enterovirus D68 is more problematic. Not only does it appear to be exacerbating breathing problems in asthmatic children, but it’s also harder to track.

Since many enteroviruses are so similar, hospitals typically don’t test for specific types, but the CDC has gone as far as to make a special request of hospitals across the nation, asking them to send in samples of suspected cases of D68.

While the CDC is trying to get a handle on the situation, parents can take certain steps to protect their children. According to Queen’s University infectious diseases expert, Dr. Dick Zoutman, hand washing can help. However, he cautions that although it’s effective, it’s not perfect.

There’s also medicine to counteract wheezing, which can come in childproofed packaging so only adults can open the medicine, preventing a child from possibly getting into it.

Most importantly, many parents of asthmatic children are wondering how worried they should be.

“You need to be aware and if your children have symptoms, particularly with the breathing troubles, then you need to think, ‘Hmmm, maybe I better get that looked at sooner rather than later,'” explains Zoutman. “People hem and haw in the middle of the night, do they want to bundle up their child and go to the emergency department? But if their [children are] short of breath, wheezing significantly, and not behaving the way they do with simple intervention, that’s something to be worried about.”

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