Five questions about enterovirus D68

The respiratory illness that has sent hundreds of children to hospitals in the Midwest has not hit Texas yet but parents and physicians are bracing for a possible outbreak of enterovirus D68 here.

While enteroviruses are common and only cause mild symptoms, this particular strain is rare in the United States, said Dr. Priya Bui, a pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at UNT Health Science Center.  Symptoms resemble a cold, but in some children, it can turn more serious and require hospitalization, said Dr. Bui, who agreed to answer questions about the virus.

Q. What are the symptoms?
A. Children may have a low-grade fever, runny nose and sore throat and sometimes wheezing. Children with asthma or pre-existing respiratory problems are more likely to experience severe symptoms. It rarely affects adults.

Q. When do the symptoms become worrisome?
A.  Extreme symptoms to watch for include fast breathing, changes in the child’s normal breathing pattern or wheezing. A child who has never wheezed before may start wheezing with this virus, which can be frightening to parents.

Q. How is it treated?
A. There’s no specific treatment. Since this is a virus, it is self-limited and only supportive care is needed. Antibiotics are not used to treat a virus. Children who require hospitalization may need breathing treatments or require oxygen.

Q. How long are children sick with this virus?
A. Typically seven to 10 days. They are most contagious during the first two to three days after onset of symptoms but can continue to be contagious throughout the course of their illness.  No deaths have been reported from this virus.

Q. How can it be prevented?
A. The virus spreads easily among children who may touch their nose or mouth and then touch a toy or crayon that is then used by another child. They should wash their hands and surfaces they touch should be cleaned frequently.

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