Ohio and 9 other states are reporting an unusual number of cases of acute respiratory tract infections, particularly the strain identified as Human Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).
While Akron Children’s Hospital has not yet had lab confirmation of a patient with EV-D68, we are experiencing an increase in patient volumes, especially related to respiratory illnesses. The medical staff is prepared for even more cases consistent with trends at children’s hospitals in Columbus and Cincinnati.
According to Dr. John Bower, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Akron Children’s, here’s what parents should know about EV-D68.
Enteroviruses – there are more than 100 types – are very common viruses with most people having only mild illness. The typical season for infection is late summer and fall.
“EV-D68 infections occur less commonly than those of other enteroviruses and most often appear as a cold-like illness,” said Dr. Bower. “The problem has been that it can – in a small number of patients – also cause more severe respiratory illness, especially in children who have asthma. In some cases, children can become ill enough to be placed in an intensive care unit.”
The great majority of children, however, require no special care and the virus will go away by itself. Parents should observe children at home if they develop cold symptoms. Only children with shortness of breath or obvious worsening symptoms, especially in children with asthma, should go to the emergency room.
For those few children requiring hospitalization, they will receive supportive care, such as keeping them hydrated and comfortable, and, in rare cases, supportive care for breathing.
To help reduce the risk of infection, Dr. Bower recommends the following:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. The virus is spread by direct contact with secretions, which most often involves the hands.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, if someone is sick.
- Keep a child feeling sick home from school, and don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider if symptoms worsen. In particular, the onset of a fever or worsening respiratory effort should prompt medical attention.
- Children experiencing any type of shortness of breath should be brought to the emergency department.