The recent outbreak of a respiratory virus responsible for hundreds of hospitalizations across the country has many parents concerned. The virus is called Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). While enteroviruses are very common, the EV-D68 strain is less common.

About enteroviruses

Enteroviruses cause about 10 to 15 million infections in the United States every year. You can't treat enteroviruses with antibiotics, and there is no vaccine to prevent them. 

Some people with enteroviruses have no symptoms, but others will experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough and mild body aches. In more severe cases, wheezing and difficulty breathing may occur. Enteroviruses account for tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year.

The EV-D68 strain, like all enteroviruses, is spread much like the flu and the common cold – through contact with respiratory secretions of an infected person, such as from coughs or sneezes, or by touching objects or surfaces that have been contaminated and then touching your eyes, mouth or nose. The virus can survive on surfaces for long periods of time.

father sitting with young daughterFor children who have not yet developed an immunity, the symptoms of EV-D68 may be more obvious. Children with asthma and respiratory issues are the most vulnerable to more severe symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many reported EV-D68 cases this year have been in children with a history of asthma or wheezing.

Caring for a child who is infected with EV-D68

Most children who are infected with EV-D68 will need nothing more than extra love and care, just as they would with any other virus.

If your child is infected with EV-D68, make sure he gets plenty of fluids and rest. If he experiences rapid breathing, wheezing and/or labored breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

Preventing the spread of infection

You can help prevent the spread of enteroviruses by following these guidelines:

  • If your child is ill, keep her home and consult with your pediatrician if you are concerned
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers for at least 20 seconds
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or cough/sneeze into your elbow or shoulder
  • Dispose of used tissues in the trash and wash your hands after touching tissues
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Don't hug, kiss or share utensils or cups with people who are sick
  • Regularly disinfect surfaces or objects that are touched frequently, such as door knobs, toys, phones and computer keyboards

More information

You can find answers to other questions about EV-D68 in the article “Enterovirus D68: What You Should Know.