Enterovirus D68 Spreading Across U.S. With Five Reported Deaths

Enterorvirus D68 (EV-D68) is spreading across the U.S., with five reported deaths so far this year, with the latest death coming in New Jersey. In its most recent report, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is indicating that state public health facilities and the CDC are reporting 922 confirmed cases of EV-D68 across 46 U.S. states from this advancing respiratory infection that affects children, more so than adults. These numbers cover a time frame from the middle of Aug. 2014, through Oct.20, 2014. Nevada, Oklahoma, Montana and Iowa have had no reported cases of the Enterovirus D68.

The numbers speak for themselves. We are currently experiencing an outbreak of EV-D68 nationwide, and the numbers continue to increase. The CDC’s most recent numbers for the week ending Oct. 11 are indicating that 32 states are reporting a declining level of activity of EV-D68, with eight states that have reported an elevated rate of incidence of the virus. Four states have reported an increased level of activity. So while numerous states are indicating decreased levels of EV-D68, because of preventative measures being taken, other states are noticing increased activity, as the virus spreads across the country.

EV-D68 is just one of the many non-polio enteroviruses reported in the U.S. every year. This strain of enterovirus is most prevalent during the summer and fall. The spread of infections and outbreaks of this virus cannot be determined from any specific pattern related to these statistics. These enteroviruses generally cause severe respiratory illness in children and young adults. Each year in the U.S., numerous rhinoviruses and enteroviruses infect millions of children nationwide, with generally one of those viruses standing out among the others, from a numbers standpoint. That virus is EV-D68 for calendar year 2014, up to this point. Another virus with greater numbers may take hold and exceed the EV-D68 numbers, but this late in the year it is highly unlikely. The spread of Enterovirus across the U.S. this year, with the death toll reported at five deaths, has given state health officials cause to ramp up prevention efforts.

EV-D68 signs and symptoms are as follows; sneezing, cough and runny nose, with fever and muscle aches and pains. Severe symptoms include difficulty breathing and wheezing. Consulting with a doctor or other healthcare professional is advised if severe symptoms cannot be controlled, or are progressing unabated. There are some very basic steps parents can take to prevent enteroviruses, and parents are the first line of defense in preventing these viruses, because children and infants as well as teens and pre-teens are at greater risk for getting infected with these viruses.

The CDC recommends washing your hands numerous times daily, for at least 20 seconds. Using these correct hand washing techniques along with abstention from certain behaviors will greatly reduce the chances of catching a viral infection of any sort. The behaviors to be avoided include the touching of your mouth, nose and eyes, without washing your hands first. Close contact activities like kissing, hugging and the reuse of silverware and glassware should be avoided as well. Keeping infected children home from school, and having them cover their mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing is highly recommended, as is disinfecting surfaces where germs may linger.

The spread of Enterovirus D68 can be eliminated, without any increase of the aforementioned five deaths reported, if only the CDC guidelines are followed. Remember to consult your family physician if you think you or one of your loved ones may have contracted EV-D68, or any other type of upper respiratory infection.

By Jim Donahue

CDC – What Parents Need to Know
CDC – Non-Polio Enteroviruses
CDC – Outbreaks and Surveillance
CDC – Enterovirus in the U.S.
NBC News

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Image Credit: Chris Zahniser, B.S.N., R.N., M.P.H.

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