By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Back-to-school virus making rounds
Over-the-counter medications will control symptoms of most virus illnesses. - photo by Stock photo

The leaves have yet to change color, but there’s already a virus circulating this fall that has sent children in 21 states to the hospital with severe respiratory illness.
Unusual cases of respiratory illness began being reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in August. The CDC said the likely cause is the Enterorvirus D68 (EV-D68).
Enteroviruses are common, and many are not serious. In fact, there are more than 100 different types of enteroviruses, which cause an estimated 10-15 million infections in the United States each year.
Many cause mild respiratory illness, fever and rash, but some cause severe illness, including swelling of the brain and spinal cord. EV-D68 primarily appears to cause respiratory illness, although its full symptoms are still unclear.
In a report of severe cases published by the CDC, children with the virus ranged from 6 weeks to 16 years of age. All children had difficulty breathing, and many had a history of previous wheezing or asthma; few had a fever.
 While this virus typically is not life-threatening, health experts warn it potentially could spread to every state.  In any case, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and make sure everyone in the family practices good hygiene to reduce the risk of getting the virus.
EV-D68 can be found in respiratory secretions, and the virus likely is spread from person to person when someone who is infected coughs, sneezes or contaminates surfaces by touching them. For this reason, people can best protect themselves and their family members by taking the following precautions:
• Wash hands frequently and thoroughly using soap and warm water
• Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
• Avoid kissing, hugging or sharing eating utensils or cups with people who are sick
• Disinfect surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs
There is no specific treatment for EV-D68 infection, nor is there a vaccine to prevent it. It’s possible for anyone to become infected; however, many infections are mild and require only treatment of symptoms.
Infants, children and teenagers are more likely to develop serious illness because they do not yet have immunity from previous exposures to the virus. This likely is true for any person with a weakened immune system as well.
As with most viruses, prevention and awareness are critical. While enterovirus infections historically hit their peak in September, it’s not clear whether the EV-D68 infection will follow a similar pattern. Now is the time to take a few simple precautions.

Kishel is the medical director of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia.

Sign up for our e-newsletters