Enterovirus D68 – What Parents Need to Know
What is Enterovirus D68
Enterovirus D68 (EVD68) is a virus that most commonly causes upper respiratory tract infections, what we commonly call a ‘cold’. We have known about EVD68 since the early 1960’s. Symptoms from infection can vary from a mild cold (by far the most common) to severe life-threatening respiratory illness such as pneumonia (rare), and respiratory failure (very rare).
Why are we worrying about EVD68 this fall?
Though we have known about this virus for over 50 years, it has never been as widespread as it is this fall. As a consequence, the media has been actively reporting on it creating and fueling fears. More recently, very small clusters of patients in certain North American cities have developed sudden paralysis and there is speculation that this paralysis might be an after-effect of having been infected by EVD68.
Should we be worried?
As of today, there is some reason for concern, but by no means should we panic or be overly worried. The reality is that EVD68 causes a mild-to-moderate cold in the vast majority of cases. It is extremely unlikely that any given infected child will suffer life/limb-threatening consequences from EVD68 infection.
Is there a treatment or vaccine for EVD68?
Like the vast majority of cold-causing viruses, there is no direct treatment or vaccine. In the mast majority of cases, some supportive treatment (rest, fluids, TLC) is all the body needs to fully recover on it’s own.
What can parents do to prevent or treat EVD68 infection?
Not every cold this fall will be caused by Enterovirus D68. In fact, most probably won’t be. But the treatment for a cold is the same no matter which virus is responsible. To help parents prepare for and look after their children infected with EVB68 (or any other upper respiratory tract infection), here are some guidelines for what to watch for, how to treat, and when you should have your child seen in a doctor’s office or emergency department.
Care at Home:
- If your child is starting to get congested, increase your attention to hygiene — washing hands, wiping noses, cleaning toys and play surfaces, trying to reduce wet contact between children.
- If your child definitely has a cold, but is still able to eat and drink, and energy level is only down a bit, you can usually continue to provide support at home. Emphasize fluids, and hygiene. More rest will be helpful, and staying home from school is important.
Care at the Doctor’s Office or Clinic
- If your child’s cold symptoms are now interfering with sleep, or drinking, or s/he develops a fever, contact your primary health practitioner (family doc, nurse practitioner, pediatrician) or an after-hours walk-in clinic, as there may be something that can be treated, or some additional relief available via prescription medications.
Care in your Local Emergency Department
- If your child’s condition is worsening quickly – listless/very low energy levels, harder to stay hydrated, difficulty breathing etc. – then assessment at your local Emergency Room or doctors office/clinic is needed.
- Increased work of breathing, seen when the skin draws in between or below the ribs, or at the neck, during breathing, is an important sign of the need for more assistance and relief, which means a trip to your local Emergency Room.
Where can parents get more information about EVD68?
For more information about EVD68, consider reviewing the following resources published from some credible organizations:
- Fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control.
- Info page from Public Health Ontario
- FAQ from WebMD
A big thank you to Dr. Paul Dempsey and the Quinte Pediatrics team for allowing us to use content from their EVD68 blog post in the writing of the above. Any questions or concerns? Please share them below in the comments section.