Enterovirus D-68 has many parents seeking to understand the differences between this “cold-like” virus and the actual common cold. The first death in New Jersey linked to the virus claimed the life of a four-year-old boy on Sept. 24. The boy’s parents said there were no indications that would have led them to believe that their child was ill. The night before his death when he went to bed he appeared to be fine, yet in the morning the parents were faced with the hardest discovery of their lives. Here are some suggestions for keeping children safe from enterovirus this fall.
The virus spreads through casual contact, similar to the common cold. The CDC’s website says that children and teens are at the highest risk of contracting the virus due to their immune systems not being as developed. The enterovirus season starts in the summer and lasts through the fall. As Americans cross the midway point this season, doctors say this has been the most aggressive strain of the virus ever seen.
The CDC published that enterovirus was first identified in California in 1962. The virus causes mild to severe respiratory illness that starts out as a mild fever, running nose, sneezing, coughing, body aches, and muscle pain. The virus then develops into pneumonia-like conditions which intensifies into severe respiratory problems. Because of the similarities to common illnesses, it can be difficult to understand the differences of Enterovirus D-68 to the common cold or the flu, but with observation and early testing, parents can help guard their families from this now determined, deadly virus.
In 43 states there have been 538 confirmed cases, as of Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. The CDC reports that there are approximately 100 strains of enterovirus. D-68 is the worst and most dangerous.
The preschooler who died in New Jersey had no prior medical complications, confirmed the parents. The only preexisting medical history of the pre-schooler was that he was born premature.
At the child’s school, Robert Wood Johnson Elementary, there is one other young boy that is showing enterovirus symptoms, but it has not yet been confirmed whether he has the illness. At this time there are no other reported cases among the 90,000 residents of Hamilton Township, NJ.
There are four patients in Colorado and 14 patients in California that are confirmed to have enterovirus. At this time there is no vaccine or treatment to cure the flu-like symptoms that occur once the virus is contracted.
What parents needs to know is that the virus spreads though casual contact, similar to how a common cold spreads. To prevent spreading, frequent washing of hands is the only known prevention. Children with asthma are at the highest risk if they contact the virus because it does attack the respiratory system, making it hard to breathe and regain respiratory control.
In Colorado, Trischelle Sheeler gave an account to KKTV on what the last five days have been like for her in her battle to fight off the virus. She said, “it felt like I was going to die.” Sheeler described her condition as being extremely painful and added that she found it hard to breathe. The young woman said when she took a shower it became even more difficult to breathe. With no prior medical issues she said this is a painful experience that she will never forget.
Doctors have stated that D-68 occurs simultaneously with the flu season. It is advisable for parents to ensure their families receive flu shots. Not only are flu shots recommended, but medical experts say it helps health professionals rule out the flu when diagnosing D-68, which could help speed up the recovery process. Medical professionals are advising all parents to understand the differences of Enterovirus D-68, and to contact their physician or pediatrician if symptoms occur or persist.
By Carolette Wright