Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is a respiratory virus spreading rapidly throughout the U.S., and health officials confirmed cases in Indiana and Montana Tuesday. First identified in California in 1962, enterovirus D68 was not commonly found in the U.S. until this year.
President Barack Obama was briefed about the virus while visiting the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta Tuesday ahead of a speech on the Ebola outbreak in Africa. A live stream of the president's comments is available on YouTube. Cases of EV-D68 have also been confirmed in Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and New York.
Non-polio enteroviruses are common and “anyone” can be infected with EV-D68, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most infections only cause a mild illness that doesn't require hospitalization and causes symptoms like sneezing, coughing and a runny nose. But some might contract a “severe illness requiring intensive care and mechanical ventilation.”
Infants and other young people have the greatest risk of contracting EV-D68, and children with asthma are experiencing exacerbated symptoms. Officials say that children having difficulty breathing should be given immediate medical attention.
There is no treatment for EV-D68 and no vaccine. Instead, doctors must choose a symptomatic treatment, which helps alleviate the symptoms as the illness runs its course. Fevers, runny nose and body aches are common symptoms of the enterovirus, while less commonly, children can develop heart and brain infections as well as paralysis of the arms or legs.
The CDC recommends frequent hand-washing to prevent the spread of EV-D68, which is spread through saliva, phlegm and stools. Objects and surfaces can carry the virus if infected by a sick person. The virus transfers after a person touches the infected area and then their eyes, nose or mouth. People with EV-D68 can avoid spreading it by covering the nose and mouth during a sneeze or cough.