Preventing Enterovirus Spread: Avoidance is Key

James Thompson, MD Health Pro
  • The problem with microscopic organisms that cause infections is you have to rely on recognizing someone is ill in order to know that you need to avoid close contact with them. People who are symptomatic from flu syndrome or pneumonia usually exhibit many signs and symptoms of illness. The period of time between contracting the infection and getting sick is relatively short. So they often don’t look well and behave differently due to the fact that they are very sick and fatigued.  But by time they are able to transmit the infection to others, they are often very symptomatic and want to stay home.

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    Enterovirus related respiratory infections differ from influenza and pneumonia in that the majority of people don’t get terribly ill. In fact, many people don’t even realize they are sick; Yet they may pass the virus on to others, who in turn, may go on to have a life-threatening illness. Symptoms of runny nose and sneezing in the summer and early fall are often thought to be related to pollen or mold allergies, but in some cases may be the early signs of enterovirus infection.



    Enteroviruses have been around for several decades, but earlier this year a cluster of children in Missouri and Illinois became severely ill from a particular subtype and required hospitalization. Enterovirus D68 (ED68) was identified as the culprit. Since surfacing in late summer, it has so far been tied to eight deaths and reported in 47 out of 50 states in America.



    Who Can Get the Infection?

    Adults can get the infection, but many are immune to enteroviruses because of past exposure to them. Young children and teenagers are more susceptible to severe illness because they often lack immunity to enteroviruses and have lesser developed immune systems. Children who have asthma or other chronic respiratory disorders are at greater risk to have life threatening complications.



    Symptoms of Enterovirus ED68


    Symptoms are very similar to the common cold or mild-flu syndrome for most people: Runny nose, sneezing, fever, muscle and body aches. Severe symptoms include wheezing and shortness of breath. Unfortunately, none of these symptoms distinguish ED68 from severe common cold, flu, or other enterovirus infections.


     Is there a cure for ED68?

    There is currently no antiviral cure for enterovirus D68. Sick patients are often given supportive care with fluids and nutrition, and when needed, medications and oxygen support for wheezing and difficulty breathing.



    Typically enterovirus infections taper off in late fall. However, sometimes unexpected new infections may continue at a high rate if a particular strain differs from its predecessors (perhaps through mutation). For this reason, counties and states are reporting all confirmed enterovirus cases to the Centers for Disease Control for tracking.



    What can be done to prevent spread?

    Here are 10 health tips:

    1)    As in the case of many infectious diseases frequent hand washing is crucial. When soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizers.


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    2)    Clean off toys, desks, tables, counter tops, and key boards before using them.


    3)    Avoid contact with people who are ill and encourage them to stay home if they are coughing, sneezing or have a fever.


    4)    When coughing or sneezing is unavoidable, turn your head away from others and cough into tissue and dispose of it immediately. If tissue is not available, cough into your upper sleeve or opposite side of your elbow with your head turned away from others. Of course this is often not successful with young children.


    5)    Encourage your child to avoid sharing cups or eating utensils and turn down offers to share candy or snacks. Avoid biting off another’s candy bar or reaching into open bags of food offered by others.


    6)    Stay home or keep your child home if they are sick with fever, frequent cough, or flu-like symptoms.


    7)    Pay close attention to health bulletins and announcements from school, county and state health departments in order to monitor virus activity in your area, and follow other suggested precautionary measures.


    8)    Get your flu shot if you have not already done so. Preparation for this flu season will be crucial in view of the multiple concerns about other widespread infectious illnesses.


    9)    Call your physician if your child has worsening cough, wheezing, or other asthma symptoms preceded by or associated with common-cold symptoms.


    10)  Read other postings on this site to learn more about ways to prevent and treat cold and flu-related illnesses.


    Final Words

    Enterovirus infections, at this point,  don't seem to be as threatening to the the population as the flu, but potential for severe illness and risk of death is evident from what we know. The above tips may also prevent many other types of infections. Do what you can to reduce further spread of infections in your home and community.








Published On: October 28, 2014