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David Morgan
575-528-5197 Office
575-649-0754 Mobile

Enterovirus D68 Becoming a Household Name

September 18, 2014 - Epidemiology and Response - Information

It's been in the news a lot lately in New Mexico and nationwide: a virus that’s making hundreds of children around the country very sick, and in some cases even sending them to hospitals with severe coughing and trouble breathing.

It’s enterovirus D68. Early media coverage called it a “mystery illness”, but there’s really no mystery about it. Enteroviruses themselves are very common. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report they cause between ten to 15 million infections every year.

Enteroviruses can cause colds, fever, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and rashes, and summer and fall is when we see enteroviruses the most.

If there’s any mystery to it, it’s why is this particular strain – the D68 – is seemingly so prevalent for the moment. D68 is less common than others, but it's been around before. Anyone can get infected with non-polio enteroviruses. But infants, children, and teenagers are more likely to get infected and become sick. That's because they do not yet have immunity from previous exposures to the viruses.

Most people who get infected with non-polio enteroviruses do not get sick. Or, they may have mild illness, like the common cold, but for people who already have lung problems, such as children with asthma, or people with weaker immune systems, such as newborns, this virus can be dangerous.

“There is no medication to fight enterovirus D68; there's no vaccine, either, but there is prevention,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “There are many preventative steps you can take to protect yourself, not just from Enterovirus, but the flu, and even the common cold.”

The New Mexico Department of Health and the CDC recommend reducing the risk of infection by doing – or not doing – the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  • As with other infections, children with cold-like symptoms who have trouble breathing or otherwise seem to be very sick should seek medical care immediately.

There is no specific treatment for people with respiratory illness caused by the D68 strain. For mild respiratory illness, you can help relieve symptoms by taking over-the-counter medications for pain and fever. Some people with severe respiratory illness may need to be hospitalized.

Remember, enterovirus is different from the flu. To assure symptoms of enterovirus can’t get confused with the flu, and to protect against the flu virus, the Department of Health also recommends everyone ages six months and older be vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible. Vaccines are already available in a variety of locations from your doctor to your local pharmacy, and they are available now.


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El Enterovirus D68 se Convierte en un Nombre Familiar