Health alert: What is enterovirus D68?
What you need to know about respiratory illness
Back to school time has brought with it an unexpected and unwelcome virus to much of the United States. Center for Disease Control (CDC) officials are warning health care providers in affected states to be on the lookout for a respiratory illness that starts with symptoms similar to the common cold, but rapidly progresses to wheezing and difficulty breathing. The virus is suspected to be enterovirus D68. Once thought to be rare, we have seen increasing frequency of infection and outbreak in recent years.
The recent outbreak has been noted in several states, 10 of which have requested help from the CDC: Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky. It is of particular concern because of the number of children whose illness progresses to wheezing and difficulty breathing. Early estimates are that about 15 percent of children who contract the virus may require hospitalization and many have required care in the intensive care unit. As with other respiratory viruses, any child with asthma or other chronic illnesses are more susceptible. The virus has been reported to cause wheezing even in children who do not have asthma.
Enterovirus D68 is spread through contact with others (often via coughing and sneezing), so avoiding people who are sick and washing hands frequently are important steps to prevention. It is important for parents to be aware of the illness and seek medical care should their children develop wheezing.
There are currently no published reports of activity in Texas, but if you have recently traveled to any of the affected states, it is important to be aware and let your pediatrician know if your child develops respiratory symptoms. As always, we will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates when new information is available.
Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.