Enterovirus: what’s all the fuss?

The news is full of stories about enterovirus D68. This virus falls into a class of very common viruses that cause 10 to 15 million infections each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people infected by enteroviruses do not even get sick. If they do, they may think they just have a cold. But sometimes, the virus causes respiratory illness that can become quite severe, especially in infants, children and teenagers.

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The staff at Norton Children’s Hospital usually sees more children with respiratory illnesses this time of year, with kids back in school or starting new schools. Sometimes these illnesses are severe enough to require hospitalization, especially for kids with underlying health issues such as asthma.

This year, there has been an increase in the number of children who have been hospitalized with severe respiratory illnesses and test positive for viruses that include enterovirus and rhinovirus, the bug that causes the common cold.

Should you worry?

“If your child is having difficulty breathing or has a high fever, you need to call your pediatrician,” said Lindsay K. Sharrer, M.D., Norton Children’s Hospital Medical Associates – Dupont. “These are serious health concerns that need to be addressed. There is no treatment for the virus itself other than letting it run its course and treating the symptoms,” she said. “Mild cases may require only rest and hydration, but more severe cases may require breathing treatments or even hospitalization.”

Stop the spread

Enteroviruses are found in an infected person’s bodily fluids, including blood, stool, mucus, saliva and blister fluids. That means that the virus can spread when a person sneezes or coughs. The fluid from the sneeze or cough lands on a hard surface that others may touch. If they then touch the mouth, eyes or nose, the infection spreads.

The best way to prevent infection is to wash your hands with soap and water. You can learn more about proper hand-washing from our Kohl’s Cares High Five Prevention Program. Also, avoid close contact with people who are sick and make sure you disinfect surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs and tabletops.

Common symptoms of enterovirus, according to the CDC:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Skin rash
  • Mouth blisters
  • Body and/or muscle aches

If your child needs urgent medical attention, visit one of our three hospitals for pediatric emergency care: Norton Children’s Hospital in downtown Louisville, Norton Children’s Medical Center – Brownsboro in east Louisville at U.S. 22 and Chamberlain Lane, and Norton Suburban Hospital, future home of Norton Women’s and Norton Children’s Hospital in St. Matthews.

 


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