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Enterovirus: What Parents Need to Know


Editor's Note: This page will be updated with new information as it becomes available.

Many parts of the U.S. are experiencing an outbreak of a respiratory illness that has sent hundreds of children to the hospital. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has tested a number of these cases and found they were a type of enterovirus called EV-D68, a virus that has been previously reported to cause severe disease in a few individuals.  

EV-D68 is not new. It was first isolated in 1962 but has been rarely reported since then. Enteroviruses of various types cause about 10 to15 million infections each year in the US, usually in the late summer or early fall. This year's outbreak includes a new type that has been associated with many cases throughout the US causing unusually severe respiratory disease in some children.

How are enteroviruses spread?

Enteroviruses are spread by close contact with an infected person. You can also become infected by touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

How are enteroviruses treated?

The vast majority of children with enteroviruses such as EV-D68 have mild symptoms and do not need any medical care beyond what is done for the common cold. A number of children with asthma and even some without a prior history of wheezing have had unusually severe cases of EV-D68 resulting in hospitalization; some requiring treatment in the intensive care unit.

Children with high fever and those with cold symptoms lasting longer than 7-10 days should talk with their pediatrician. Those with difficulty breathing should seek emergency care.

New information about EV-D68:

The CDC is currently searching for any links between this outbreak of EV-D68 and new complications seen in some children who are experiencing arm and leg weakness. Note that doctors have not yet confirmed a link between EV-D68 and these symptoms. More information on this development will be shared as it becomes available. Children with arm or leg weakness should seek emergency care.

New, faster lab test for EV-D68: 

The CDC has developed and started using a new, faster lab test for detecting EV-D68 in specimens from people in the United States with respiratory illness. This test will allow CDC to more rapidly test for EV-D68. While this has been a big year for EV-D68 infections, CDC expects the number of cases to taper off by late fall.

Important information for children with asthma:​

​​​This virus seems to be particularly hard on children's lungs. Therefore, it is especially important for parents of children previously diagnosed with asthma to:

  • Help your child follow his asthma action plans.
  • Communicate with your child's pediatrician or subspecialist to plan in advance for times when symptoms or needs urgent medical care.
  • Take prescribed asthma medications as directed, especially long-term control medication(s).
  • Keep the reliever (rescue) medication (inhaler or nebulizer) on hand.
  • Get the seasonal influenza vaccine  as soon as vaccine is available, because an influenza infection in the lungs can trigger asthma attacks and a worsening of asthma symptoms.
  • Make sure the child's caregiver and/or teacher is aware of his condition, and that they know how to avoid asthma triggers and what to do if the child experiences any symptoms related to asthma.
  • Although no children should be exposed to secondhand smoke, it is especially important to prohibit smoking in homes and cars where children with asthma live.

​​​How to reduce the risk of infection w​ith enteroviruses:

To reduce the risk of infection with enteroviruses:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.​
  • Avoid touching, 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.
  • Stay home when feeling sick, and consult with your health care provider.

Remember, enterovirus is different from the flu!  

Flu season is just around the corner. To protect against the flu virus, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children ages six months and older be get their flu vaccine at the earliest possible time.

Healthy Children Radio: Enterovirus D68 (Audio)

Areas of the U.S. are experiencing an outbreak of respiratory illness that has sent hundreds of children to the hospital. Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, a member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, treated some of the first cases detected in the 2014 outbreak of Enterovirus D68. Dr. Jackson joins the Healthy Children show on RadioMD to share what parents need to know about this virus and what signs to watch for in their children.

Segment 1: Reports of a Severe Respiratory Illness on the Rise

Additional Information:

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2014)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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