Thursday, September 11, 2014

Enterovirus: What Parents, Caregivers Need To Know

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A respiratory illness affecting thousands of children across the nation has Pennsylvania hospitals, doctors, parents and caregivers on alert, and health experts say it's important to know the symptoms and step up preventive measures.

It's called enterovirus D68, and Dr. Matt Davis, chief medical executive with the Michigan Department of Community Health, says many of the symptoms start out similar to a severe cold, but can take a much more serious turn.

Davis adds this strain is rare and can cause wheezing, difficulty breathing, fever and racing heart rate.

"If you have a child with asthma, or a child without, and you start having your child complaining of difficulty breathing, or you're noticing much more coughing than usual, that's the time to get your child evaluated," he warns.

Spikes in cases of this virus have been reported in at least 10 states.

There have been clusters of enterovirus reported in Pennsylvania in past years, but there are no confirmed cases in the state as part of this current outbreak.

Davis says this isn't a vaccine-preventable illness, and there is no treatment other than supportive care.

He stresses that its spread can be prevented by putting in place the sorts of good hygiene behaviors people also count on during flu season.

"We need to wash our hands regularly, cover coughs and sneezes, and do a good job of helping people get better at home - or in the hospital if need be - rather than continuing to spread the virus in their communities," he advises.

Davis adds that the enterovirus can affect people of all ages, but children, and particularly those with asthma, are at higher risk for breathing problems.

However, he cautions that one-third of the children hospitalized in other states have not had underlying health or breathing issues.

Tom Joseph

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