Is the EV-D68 Virus Putting Your Child At Risk for Severe Respiratory Illness or Worse?

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While a variety of viruses are constantly being spread from person to person, including the common cold and the flu, the United States is currently on high alert due to the presence of two sicknesses: Ebola and enterovirus D68. But while very few people in the U.S. have officially been diagnosed with Ebola and isolation methods make a serious outbreak fairly unlikely, enterovirus D68 seems to present more of a risk: typically a mild condition, some children believed to have contracted the virus this year have developed severe respiratory illness and paralysis, while others have died. Because of this, many doctors offices, hospitals and urgent care centers are on high alert.

Currently, over 500 cases of EV-D68 have been confirmed in 42 states, although the actual number may be higher, as doctors typically do not test every patient to confirm the specific type of virus during a known outbreak. A total of four of these children have died. But while health officials have largely stated that the role of EV-D68 in these deaths is unknown, others have hypothesized that underlying illnesses may have been to blame.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has refused to release details about three of the deaths, but health officials in Rhode Island have confirmed that the fourth victim, a 10 year old girl, was also suffering from a bacterial disease called Staphylococcus aureus. If all of the children had compromised immune systems, this could explain why EV-D68 is typically a mild condition from which children can recuperate with little difficulty. However, the cause of the severe respiratory illnesses and paralysis, from which most of the patients have successfully recovered, remains a mystery.

If this hypothesis is correct, however, parents of children with autoimmune disorders, compromised immune systems, or other serious conditions may have reason to worry about their child’s chances of contracting the virus. In these cases, doctors are recommending that these children visit their pediatrician to monitor that their vitamin D levels and check any potential symptoms of the virus, including a fever, runny nose, skin rashes or body aches. Doctors have also recommended that children and their parents practice good hygiene to reduce the spread of germs.

Because the current severity of the EV-D68 is so unusual, all children who may have the virus should seek medical care immediately. A parent might be tempted to visit a hospital at the first sign of symptoms, but unless their child is having difficulty breathing, emergency room care is not necessary. Instead, schedule an appointment at your local doctors office. If the office is overbooked, however, consider visiting the nearest urgent care clinic. Urgent care centers are designed to treat non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries quickly and affordably, and often offer everything from prescriptions to routine blood work, X rays and physical exams. Because EV-D68 cannot be treated by antibiotics, an urgent care physician will be able to prescribe basic pain medication, decongestants and more to treat the symptoms themselves, helping the child feel better even with the virus. This early treatment can be vital to preventing any condition from worsening. With the current problems associated with EV-D68, it’s better to be safe than sorry: if you believe your child might have EV-D68, visit an urgent care center.

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