What Parents Should Know About Enterovirus & the CDC's Concerns About Respiratory Illness Hospitalizing Kids

What Parents Should Know About Enterovirus & the CDC's Concerns About Respiratory Illness Hospitalizing Kids

2022-09-25

The CDC issued an advisory last week about a recent uptick in severe respiratory illness that has required hospitalization in children, encouraging them to consider that it might be a type of enterovirus.

In July and August of this year, medical professionals in the United States saw an increase in infections caused by enterovirus D68 and EV-D68. Both of which cause mild, cold-like symptoms that have the potential to lead to a more severe respiratory illness. 

The alert was directed at health care providers, specifically doctors and hospitals who treat children. This was in large part because EV-D68 has been associated with acute flaccid myelitis, (A.F.M.) a rare, but serious neurologic complication that can involve limb weakness, paralysis or death. More than 90% of all cases in the United States are in children. 

The number of reported cases of EV-D68 are the highest they have been since 2018, and experts warn that spikes tend to precede cases of A.F.M. The issuance of an advisory was to alert doctors and other healthcare providers, and encourage testing as soon as symptoms arise. 

So, what are enteroviruses?

Enteroviruses are widely common and in most cases have mild symptoms. Infections occur mainly in the summer and fall, and primarily affect infants, children and teens. The virus may not cause any symptoms and oftentimes can lead to a mild “summer flu”. They can also cause a rash or hand-foot-and-mouth disease. 

There are cases where an enterovirus can result in more severe illness and cause life-threatening complications. Some of the viruses can cause inflammation of the tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord, and the particular enterovirus, D68 can lead to troubled breathing.

What are the symptoms?

Like most common colds, enterovirus symptoms include:

-Fever

-Muscle aches

-Runny nose

-Sore throat

-Sneezing

-Red sores in the mouth and on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet

-A red rash over large areas of the body

What causes an enterovirus infection, and how do you keep your child safe?

An infection can occur if your child comes into contact with someone who has an enterovirus. This can occur through cough droplets in the air, sneezing, touching contaminated surfaces and even coming into contact with contaminated stool. 

When it comes to knowing if your child has an enterovirus, and what particular strain, testing is key. Doctors will likely ask what symptoms your child is experiencing, their medical history and run tests that can look for problems in the heart, lungs and brain. Treatment for mild cases is often pain medicine, bed rest or a change of diet if your child is experiencing mouth sores. In more severe cases, doctors will likely prescribe a specific antibiotic.

Experts agree that prevention is key in stopping the spread of an enterovirus and that washing your hands regularly is the best way to do that. Keeping household surfaces and bed linens clean and staying away from anyone you think might be sick is another preventative measure to take.

While parents should always be monitoring their children’s health, enterovirus infections that cause severe illness are rare. The agency issues health alerts regularly to keep doctors aware of trends they are seeing, and if parents have any concerts about their child, they should consult with their pediatrician. 

Before you go, check out our favorite cough and cold remedies for kids:

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