Enterovirus-D68 in North Texas: How to Stay Safe

By late September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that almost 300 cases of rapidly spreading enterovirus-D68 had been confirmed in the United States, with 10 of those in Dallas County. Should you be concerned?

The answer is yes — and no.

Enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68) is a respiratory virus that usually affects infants, children and teens. At its mildest, EV-D68 can cause body and muscle aches, cough, runny nose, and sneezing — with some kids experiencing more serious symptoms that include wheezing, trouble breathing, muscle weakness and even paralysis. It’s spread from person to person, usually when someone encounters respiratory secretions indirectly by touching a contaminated surface or directly through an infected person’s cough or sneeze.

Most healthy kids who get EV-D68 will experience symptoms on the milder end of the spectrum, and mild cases can usually be treated at home with rest and fluids. However, kids with a history of breathing problems such as asthma are usually hit harder by EV-D68 and might need additional treatment at a doctor’s office or hospital for breathing treatments, supplemental oxygen or even ventilators. If your child is experiencing rapid or labored breathing or wheezing, he or she needs medical attention.

No Easy Answers

While doctors can do a rapid test to determine if the illness is one of the 100-plus varieties of enterovirus, a rapid test specifically for EV-D68 isn’t yet available. Instead, once a general enterovirus diagnosis is confirmed, doctors provide treatment for the symptoms the patient is currently experiencing. If the physician believes an EV-D68 diagnosis needs to be confirmed, he or she can swab the child’s throat and nose and send the samples to the CDC for testing.

Stay Safe

Antiviral treatments and vaccinations aren’t available to help prevent infections from EV-D68, so it’s important that everyone take precautions to reduce their risks of being exposed. People who have been diagnosed with asthma or other airway diseases should be diligent about taking medications that control their breathing problems, and Texas Health Resources recommends that everyone practice these hygiene tips to reduce contact:

  • If you know someone is sick, be cautious while eating with him or her. Don’t share food, eating utensils, cups or plates.
  • Don’t get too close. Hugging and kissing can allow viruses — including EV-D68 — to spread from person to person.
  • Regularly clean and sanitize the surfaces of your home, especially high-touch areas such as counter tops, doorknobs and bathroom faucet handles. Viruses can live on these surfaces and infect people who touch them, then touch their mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Try not to touch your face — particularly your eyes, nose and mouth. If you have to touch your face, make sure you wash your hands first.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

“Now we know EV-D68, as well as other viruses, is circulating in Dallas County,” says Zachary Thomas, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services. “Residents should take the proper precautions to avoid transmission.”

For more information on EV-D68, visit CDC.gov.

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