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Enterovirus: What Parents, Caregivers Need To Know

PHOTO: Michigan is one of several states investigating possible cases of enterovirus D-68, a respiratory illness blamed for sending thousands of children to hospitals across the Midwest. Photo credit: menstatic/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: Michigan is one of several states investigating possible cases of enterovirus D-68, a respiratory illness blamed for sending thousands of children to hospitals across the Midwest. Photo credit: menstatic/morguefile.com.
September 10, 2014

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

It's called enterovirus D-68, and according to Dr. Matt Davis, chief medical executive with the Michigan Department of Community Health, many of the symptoms start out similar to a severe cold but can take a much more serious turn.

Davis said 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," Davis said.

Spikes in cases of this virus have been reported in at least 10 states. While Davis said many Michigan hospitals have seen higher than usual numbers of kids with respiratory issues, they are still waiting for tests to confirm this strain.

This isn't a vaccine-preventable illness, Davis said, and there is no treatment other than supportive care. He stressed 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 said.

Davis said enterovirus can affect people of all ages - but children, and particularly those with asthma, are at higher risk for breathing problems. However, he cautioned that one-third of the children hospitalized in other states have not had underlying health or breathing issues.

More information on enterovirus is online at cdc.gov.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI