The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning pediatricians and parents about a rare and serious respiratory disease that is affecting children.
It is not Covid-19 or flu, it is called Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).
“Healthcare providers and hospitals in several regions of the United States notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during August 2022 about increases in pediatric hospitalizations in patients with severe respiratory illness who also tested positive for rhinovirus (RV) and/or enterovirus (EV)… Upon further typing, some specimens have been positive for enterovirus D68 (EV-D68),” according to CDC’s website.
Diagnosing Enterovirus D68 can be difficult because its symptoms are similar to those of the common cold like runny nose, cough, and fever.
EV-D68 has been associated with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare but serious neurologic complication that can cause weakness in the arms and legs, and in some cases, it can even lead to paralysis.
“Between April—August 2022, EV-D68 was detected in some children and adolescents with ARI across all seven sites. The number of detections in July—August 2022 was greater than in the same period of the previous three years (2019, 2020, and 2021). As of August 30, 2022, CDC had not received increased reports of AFM cases with onset in 2022. However, increases in EV-D68 respiratory illnesses have typically preceded cases of AFM, indicating that increased vigilance for AFM in the coming weeks will be essential,” according to the agency.
Below are the recommendations for the public according to CDC:
Help protect yourself from getting and spreading respiratory viruses, like rhinoviruses or EV-D68, by following these steps:
Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick, and when you are sick.
Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Consider wearing a mask around other people if you have respiratory symptoms.
Contact a healthcare provider immediately if you or your child has trouble breathing or has a sudden onset of limb weakness.
Ensure you or your child are following an up-to-date asthma action plan if you or your child have asthma.
Stay up-to-date with all recommended vaccines.
Here’s what we know about Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68):
What is enterovirus D68?
First identified in California in 1962, enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses. EV-D68 typically causes respiratory illness, which can be mild (like a common cold) or more severe.
What are the symptoms of EV-D68 infection?
EV-D68 can cause mild to severe respiratory illness, or no symptoms at all.
Mild symptoms may include runny nose, sneezing, cough, body aches, and muscle aches.
Severe symptoms may include wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Anyone with respiratory illness should contact their doctor if they are having difficulty breathing or if their symptoms are getting worse.
EV-D68 can also cause acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), an uncommon but serious neurologic condition which mostly affects children and causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak.
Seek immediate medical attention if you or your child develops any of these symptoms, especially following a respiratory illness:
arm or leg weakness
pain in the neck, back, arms, or legs
difficulty swallowing or slurred speech
difficulty moving the eyes or drooping eyelids
facial droop or weakness
How does the virus spread?
Since EV-D68 causes respiratory illness, the virus can be found in an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum (mucus-like secretions from the lungs). EV-D68 likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches a surface that is then touched by others.
Who is at risk?
In general, infants, children, and teenagers are most likely to get infected with enteroviruses and become ill. That’s because they do not yet have immunity (protection) from previous exposures to these viruses. We believe this is also true for EV-D68. Adults can get infected with enteroviruses, but they are more likely to have no symptoms or mild symptoms.
Children with asthma may have a higher risk for severe respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 infection.