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What You Should Know About Enterovirus 68

Concerns are continuing to grow as the respiratory illness enterovirus 68, or HEV68 has now spread into at least 10 states in the U.S. And while it still hasn’t emerged in Arizona (10/17/14 update: 24 cases statewide are being tested for the deadly D68 strain by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), doctors are still taking the situation very seriously while parents keep a keen eye open for symptoms.

Here are few things you should know about enterovirus 68 (HEV68):

Where did it come from?

The virus was first found in California in 1962. At that time, it was found in 4 children who were suffering from bronchitis and pneumonia. Since then, it has been rarely seen in the United States, with only 26 cases being reported between 1962 and 2000. From the year 2000 until earlier this year, there have been 47 cases reported, forcing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor the virus more closely.

Then suddenly this year, the number of cases has jumped up significantly, with reports of hundreds of cases being reported in just the last month.

How does the virus spread?

Like most viruses, enterovirus 68 can spread from one person to another when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Touching a contaminated surface can also cause the virus to spread. Because enterovirus 68 causes respiratory illness, it is found an infected person’s respiratory secretions, like saliva and nasal mucus.

Even though it’s hard to predict when and where viruses will spread, studies show that most people in the United States who are infected with enterovirus 68, contract it in the summer or fall.

What symptoms should I look for?

Those infected with enterovirus 68 typically start out showing common cold symptoms such as running nose, coughing, fever, aching muscles and a sore throat. As it gets worse, a child may begin to have trouble breathing and may begin wheezing. In fact, many of the children who are infected with enterovirus 68 tend to have a history of breathing issues, including asthma.

Children and teenagers are most likely to be affected by enterovirus 68 as they have not yet had exposure to these types of viruses in the past and haven’t been able to build up protection or immunity to it.

What should I do if I think my child has enterovirus 68?

Most doctors and experts agree that, like most colds and viruses, enterovirus 68 will run its course in due time. However, there are extreme cases when a child will need to be hospitalized to watch their breathing. The best thing to do if you suspect that your child is infected with the virus is to seek medical advice from your trusted medical provider. You can always bring your child in to AllKids Urgent Care, where we focus specifically on kids and their health.

We encourage parents not to panic as they continue to hear stories about the outbreak in other states throughout the country. This seems to be affecting children who are already experiencing other respiratory illnesses. Healthy children should take the normal precautions as they do to prevent any illness, such as washing their hands frequently. If your child does become sick and seems to have a tough time getting over it, you might consider having them checked out to see if they are at risk for enterovirus 68.

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