Enterovirus D68

Things Parents Should Know

As news spreads and more and more kids are hospitalized by enterovirus D68, parents are increasingly worried about their children becoming infected. It’s important to understand what the virus is, how it is transmitted, and how it can be prevented.

Below are five things to know about enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).

  1. There are over 100 kinds of enteroviruses, with the most commonly seen being coxsackievirus, echovirus, and enterovirus, including enterovirus D68. These viruses are common and infect millions of people every year. They can infect anyone, but they’re more likely to cause illnesses in infants, children, and teens who haven’t developed immunity against the virus, and people with weakened immune systems.
  2. EV-D68 causes respiratory illness, and the virus can be found in respiratory secretions such as saliva and mucus. The virus likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches contaminated surfaces.
  3. There is no vaccine for preventing EV-D68, but you can help protect yourself and your family by following these tips:
    • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers. Make sure you clean in between the fingers and under the nails, where germs can collect.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing utensils with people who are sick.
    • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.
    • Teach kids how to cough safely –into their elbow, not their hands.
  4. No antiviral medications are currently available for EV-D68. But symptoms such as fever and muscle aches can be relieved with acetaminophen or ibuprofen while the infection runs its course, which often takes as little as a day or two. However, some people with severe respiratory illness may need to be hospitalized.
  5. When to call the doctor: Emergency rooms across the country are seeing a spike in visits because caregivers are concerned that their child may have an EV-D68 infection. Most kids who are infected with EV-D68 will have cold-like symptoms, such as cough, congestion, and a runny nose. These symptoms should be watched closely, but do not require emergency medical care. If your child has a history of asthma and develops cold-like symptoms, it’s best to contact your doctor for advice. Seek emergency medical care if your child has severe respiratory symptoms such as wheezing or difficult or labored breathing.

Reviewed by Michael Green, MD, MPH, and Marian Michaels, MD, MPH, 9/19/14.

The Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC provides consultation in the diagnosis and management of infectious diseases in children.

Resources for parents and caregivers

About Non-Polio Enterovirus
Centers for Disease Control

Enterovirus
KidsHealth – A to Z Dictionary

In the news

Doctor-to-Patient: Enterovirus D68 Risks
MedPage Today, 10/09/14

Outbreak of a Respiratory Illness Escalates Among Children and Mystifies Scientists
New York Times, 9/25/14

Virus Found at South Butler Primary School
Tribune-Review, 9/19/14

Enterovirus – Separating Facts From Hype
KDKA Radio, 9/17/14

Erie Co. Reports 2 More Confirmed Cases Of Enterovirus D68
KDKA-TV, 9/17/14

What would happen if enterovirus 68 is confirmed in Pittsburgh?
WPXI-TV, 9/17/14