Enterovirus: What you need to know

The enterovirus strain known as EV D68 has been widely reported in the news lately, as the respiratory virus is hospitalizing thousands of children throughout the country. Le Bonheur’s Emergency Department has had an influx of patients with respiratory illness for the last several months and many parents want to know the latest information.  Le Bonheur has not had any confirmed cases of EV D68, but we expect that we will.

A new development in other parts of the country is a rare occurrence of neurologic illness, including limb weakness and other nerve problems such as facial droop, double vision and difficulty swallowing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating the link between the neurologic illness and EV D68. Some patients with limb weakness in Colorado have tested positivt forEV-D68 at the CDC,  “In our molecular virology lab, we are working closely with the CDC to learn all we can about the EV D68 strain,” said John DeVincenzo, MD, medical director of Molecular Diagnostics and Virology Laboratories.  “Parents should know that we are closely monitoring the situation and are talking with pediatricians about what is happening in our region.”

Below are answers to parents’ questions about enterovirus from Chief of Infectious Disease Sandy Arnold, MD.

What is enterovirus?

Enteroviruses are from the same family as common cold viruses (rhinoviruses). They cause a variety of illness including respiratory infections, hand foot and mouth disease and viral meningitis every spring through fall.

The EV D68 strain has been causing respiratory infections in patients across the country; those with asthma are experiencing the most severe symptoms. There have been a much smaller number of children experiencing the nervous system symptoms.

What signs should I look for?

Typical symptoms of the virus are runny nose, coughing, wheezing and other symptoms similar to the common cold. In more severe cases, children experience shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.

When should I take my child to the emergency department?

If your child has any of the following symptoms, we recommend seeking emergency care: 

  • The child complains of difficulty breathing or can’t catch his/her breath, chest retracts and lips and/or fingers turn blue

  • The child’s skin or lips have turned blue

  • The child is unresponsive or difficult to arouse

  • Paralysis, unexplained slurred speech, severe headache, blurred vision, difficulty speaking, numbness or tingling

These are guidelines. If at any point you believe your child needs immediate emergency care, take him/her to the emergency department or call 911.

When should I contact my child’s physician?

 Children who have a mild runny nose or cough do not need to go to the doctor. But if the cough is severe or there is mild difficulty breathing or wheezing in known asthmatics, you should call your child’s physician. If symptoms are severe, you should go directly to the Emergency Department or call 911.

In addition, we recommending contacting your child’s physician if he/she shows signs of neurological illness, including:

  • Unexplained weakness in his/her limbs

  • Unexplained weakness in the muscles of the face, double vision or difficulty swallowing

How can I protect my family?

The best ways to prevent viral respiratory infections are to wash/sanitize hands, cover coughs and encourage children to do the same. Keep your child home from school if they show signs of respiratory illness.

Additional information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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