• Health & Wellness

    Monitoring Enterovirus D68

Photo: Mayo Clinic monitoring enterovirus D68

Written by Greg Brown, Mayo Clinic News Specialist

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), enterovirus infections are common in the summer and fall. However, hospitals throughout the U.S. are seeing more children than usual with severe respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D68. The CDC is watching the situation and helping with testing of specimens. Health care providers should consider enterovirus D68 in young children with severe respiratory illness or unexplained muscle weakness, and report unusual increases in cases to their state health department.

There is no vaccine or medicine that treats enterovirus infection specifically; but, children can be treated with supportive care, including oxygen, breathing treatments and fluids, as needed.

Clinicians at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center have been treating a surge of children with acute respiratory illness, involving wheezing and difficulty breathing, since mid-August. One case was confirmed to be due to enterovirus D68, and several other cases are suspected to be due to that virus. Adults also can be infected with enterovirus D68, although the current outbreak of disease appears to affect children primarily. The reason for this is not known. Enterovirus D68 is particularly hard on those with asthma and reactive airway disease.

If you or your children have asthma and or reactive airway disease, the CDC recommends that you:

  • Discuss and update your asthma action plan with your primary care provider.
  • Take your prescribed asthma medications as directed, especially long-term control medication(s).
  • Keep your reliever medication with you.
  • Get a flu vaccine, when available.
  • If you develop new or worsening asthma symptoms, follow the steps of your asthma action plan. If your symptoms do not go away, call your primary care provider right away.

Proactively manage your child’s health by taking these steps:

  • Monitor your child for respiratory symptoms and seek care, as you would usually if your child appears to have more than a minor illness, especially if the child has difficulty breathing or a history of asthma or other chronic condition affecting the heart or lungs.
  • Avoid contact with people who are ill. If your child is ill, he or she should stay home and avoid contact with other people until the illness resolves.
  • Use at-home remedies, such as fluids and over-the-counter cold treatments, as needed and as directed on labels.
  • Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, and wash your hands with soap and water after handling tissues or respiratory secretions, having contact with someone who is ill, changing diapers or helping your child use the bathroom, touching surfaces in public areas, and before preparing food or eating.
  • Vaccinate children for preventable respiratory infections, including pneumococcal and influenza vaccines. Ensure your child’s caregiver and/or teacher is aware of his/her condition, and that the caregiver knows how to help if the child experiences any asthma-related symptoms.

Mayo Clinic Children’s Center pediatric infectious diseases specialist W. Charles Huskins, M.D., shares information about these illnesses, what parents should look for and how to prevent them from spreading.