EVD68: Watch for it in Summer and Fall

Article Categories: Laboratory and Testing & Diseases and Conditions

Enterovirus D68 (EVD68) seems to enjoy making people sick in the summer and fall. One of more than one hundred non-polio enteroviruses, it was first noticed in 1962 and then seemed to fade away. But in 1987, it reappeared and was reported in small numbers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) every year.

Then came 2014. The high number of reported EVD68 infections was completely unexpected! Here’s what CDC found:

• The outbreak lasted from mid-August to January 15, 2015.

• There were 1,153 confirmed cases in 49 states.

• Nearly all cases were children who had asthma or wheezing.

What’s in store for 2015? The CDC can’t predict, but it may become a common enterovirus for years to come. To remind you and help you be alert to possible cases you may encounter, here are some points:

1. Infants, children, and teenagers are most likely to get infected with EVD68, because their immune systems are undeveloped. Most at-risk are children with asthma or immune disorders. Adults can also become infected, but usually show no symptoms, or develop a mild case.

2. Symptoms are usually flu-like: fever, cough, sneezing, runny nose, and body aches. If it’s a severe case, there may be wheezing or difficulty breathing.

3. EVD68 is a respiratory illness spread by nasal mucus, sputum, or saliva. When an infected person touches his or her face or nose, and then a surface, others can get infected.

4. Diagnosis is by evaluating clinical symptoms. In October 2014, CDC did develop a lab test that can confirm EVD68 within a few days.

5. Treatment is supportive, focused on relieving the symptoms.

6. Outcomes are generally good. Most patients recover without any complications.

7. Severe cases have been reported: Meningitis, eye complications, heart issues, and rarely, paralysis.

Even if you don’t work in a pediatric setting, you should be aware of seasonal infections and common symptoms. Adult patients may report having a sick child at home or possibly be infected themselves. You should protect yourself and vulnerable patients by doing the following:

• Handwashing is always the first line of defense. Remind patients that soap and water for 20 seconds is recommended instead of using hand sanitizer.

• Take extra care to keep work surfaces clean.

• Avoid touching mouth, nose, and eyes before washing your hands.

• Disinfect doorknobs and frequently-touched objects or surfaces during EVD68 season.

• Don’t use your hands to cover coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue or paper towel--or even a sleeve, if necessary!

As a healthcare professional, your family and friends may seek your advice. While you can’t diagnose, you can share your knowledge about EVD68 and encourage them to seek treatment if symptoms get worse.

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