The markers of fall: back-to-school festivities, changing leaves, pumpkin spice lattés—and coughs, colds, sniffles, and viruses transmitted by school-aged children. But do the sicknesses coming home from school seem to be especially tough this year?
This could be due to enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), a particularly nasty respiratory virus that has affected children across the country. According to The Journal News, as of mid-September there were already a handful of suspected cases admitted to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla. Local schools have even alerted families to the symptoms of the disease, telling them to be on alert.
Why does EV-D68 seem worse than your normal virus? “For patients with asthma who tend have exacerbations triggered by viral illnesses, EV-D68 seems to be a bit more virulent,” says Dr. Debra Etelson, a pediatrician practicing in New Rochelle. “So if these children—especially infants and immunocompromised patients—become infected, they may be more likely to become sicker.”
Another thing that makes EV-D68 a tricky is that it doesn’t commonly come with a fever. Etelson notes that fewer than 20 percent of cases present with fevers, and fewer than 10 percent have high fevers. Instead, the major symptoms are coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and sneezing.
Unfortunately, since it’s a virus, antibiotics don’t work on EV-D68, and, for prevention, there’s not much you can do beyond the usual. Etelson recommends “proper cough etiquette, wiping down surfaces frequently, and making sure hands are clean before touching face, mouth, and eyes. And, when possible keep sick kids home to prevent further spread.” Children with asthma should take extra precautions. “Make sure they have an unexpired supply of medicine, such as inhalers or nebulizer solution, on hand in case they begin to have symptoms,” Etelson notes. “And they should visit their doctor when they get sick.”
Still, there is no reason to panic. “My personal bias is it’s not as bad as people are making it out to be,” she says. “These outbreaks of viruses happen frequently, I think this one has gotten a lot of notoriety because the asthmatic kids got sicker, and it seems quite contagious. Kids are also getting sicker earlier on in the fall season than they usually do.”
For more from Etelson, visit www.mdmommy.com.