Enterovirus D68–What Parents Should Know
We have been seeing and hearing a lot about a mysterious illness called “Enterovirus D68” in the news lately. Pictures of children in the hospital receiving breathing treatments and having weakness have been concerning to many parents.
What is this illness? How is it spread? What can parents do to protect their children?
There are more than 100 known strains of enteroviruses in the world, and they cause millions of infections every year. Enteroviruses are harbored in the GI tract, but they can cause a variety of symptoms depending on the strain of virus. Some strains are responsible for hand, foot, and mouth disease, some cause meningitis or GI symptoms, and some are even responsible for the common cold. Polio is also an enterovirus, but this strain is a NON-POLIO type. The D68 strain appears to be able to travel to the brain, but it has RARELY caused weakness or paralysis.
Enterovirus D68 is a respiratory strain that especially affects children who have asthma. So far it has been seen in most states in the country, with Colorado being most affected. Many children who contract the illness will just have the symptoms of a bad cold. But if your child has asthma and starts to show any symptoms like cough, fever, runny nose, body aches, wheezing, or difficulty breathing, he should be seen by his doctor. Young children can get into respiratory difficulty quickly, so early diagnosis and treatment are crucial. Adults can contract the virus, but the symptoms in children are more likely to be severe.
People are wondering why this strain of enterovirus is so widespread. D68 was first identified in the 1960s and has been around since then. Health officials are not yet sure, but it is likely that the virus has mutated (changed) to become more transmissible. Enteroviruses are most common in the fall, and they tend to go away around November. We are not sure if this will happen with D68 or if it will continue into the winter.
What can parents do? Keep a close eye on your children, especially if they have asthma. Give them a good probiotic. Sixty to seventy percent of our immune systems are located in our GI tracts, and a daily dose of probiotic can keep up the “good” bacteria in the gut that can help ward off illness. Probiotic use is helpful but of course no guarantee that your child will not get sick. Keep sick children at home. This can help prevent the spread of illness.
Call your doctor right away if you are concerned about your child’s health.
Blessings to you,