As the respiratory illness known as enterovirus D68 continues to spread among children and young adults throughout the country, we asked Richard Olans, MD, chief of Infectious Diseases at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and member of Hallmark Health Medical Associates, to give us a basic understanding of enterovirus D68.

As Dr. Olans explains, there are many enteroviruses (hundreds). They live in the gut, but can infect numerous other organ systems. He points out that enteroviruses have been known for several decades, causing summer rash and respiratory illnesses and even viral meningitis, but new technologies have made their detection easier. This particular
enterovirus we are currently seeing (D68) primarily affects the lungs and airways.

Those who are most commonly being affected by D68 are children and young adults, typically between the ages of 2-18.

Mild symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough and body and muscle aches. Most of the children who got very ill in the Midwest had difficulty breathing and some had wheezing. Many of these children had an underlying respiratory disease, such as asthma.

Dr. Olans is an advocate for "common sense precautions" when it comes to prevention. "Cover your cough, cough into your sleeve, and use old fashioned hand washing techniques," he says. "Viruses that come from the gut, like enteroviruses, are not killed with alcohol-based hand sanitizers, so everyone should get in the habit of washing their hands with soap and water for 30-60 seconds."

Dr. Olans says that there are no specific treatments or "magic bullet" antiviral medicines for people with enterovirus D68, so many of the over-the-counter cold and flu medications can help with the symptoms. Those with severe respiratory illness may need to be hospitalized.

"Parents of kids with asthma or other reactive airway disease should update their asthma action plan with their primary care doctor, and be aware of the development of any worsening symptoms," says Dr. Olans. "Children should have their reliever medications with them at all times, and teachers and school nurses should be aware of any respiratory conditions."

For more information about enterovirus D68, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at http://www.cdc.gov/

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