EV-D68 one of many strains

WAKEFIELD – So far in Wakefield, there have been no reported cases of the EV-D68 (enterovirus), said Board of Health Director Ruth Clay.

“It is not a local issue,” Clay said this week.

But that could soon change. This week one case was confirmed when an 80-year-old girl in a southeastern Massachusetts town was diagnosed with the virus and was hospitalized at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The girl is now at home resting and will resume her studies soon, according to a news report.

Suspected cases of the virus have also been reported at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Baystate Children’s Hospital in Springfield, where some 40 to 50 children ages 2 to 6 were treated in the last eight days for what has been described as a “spike in milder respiratory illnesses.”

Dr. Richard Olans, chief of Infectious Diseases at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and member of Hallmark Health Medical Associates, said there are many enteroviruses; in fact, hundreds.

“They live in the gut but can infect numerous other organ systems,” he said.

Olans pointed out that enteroviruses have been known for several decades, causing summer rash and respiratory illnesses and even viral meningitis but new technologies have made their detection easier.

“This particular enterovirus we are currently seeing affects the lungs and airways,” said Olans. He emphasized that there is no “magic bullet” anti-viral medicines for people with the EV-D68, but over-the-counter drugs can help ease symptoms.

The EV-D68 virus is one of many non-polio enteroviruses and was first identified in California in 1962 but it has not been commonly reported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control website.

The disease begins with mild symptoms that may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, couch and body and muscle aches. Children with asthma suffer are reported to be more at risk and many gasp for breath and experience wheezing.

Since EV-D68 affects the respiratory tract, the virus is found in saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum. It spreads from person to person through coughs, sneezes or when an infected person touches a contaminated surface.

So far, since mid-August to September 23, 2013 people in 30 states have been confirmed to have the virus. Except for one adult, all cases have involved children due to their immature immune system.s

EV-D68 is diagnosed by taking cultures from a person’s nose and throat and then analyzed in the lab.

Many hospitals and some doctor’s offices can test ill patients to see if they have the enterovirus infection. However, most cannot do specific testing to determine the type of the enterovirus, like EV-D68. Some state health departments and CDC can do this sort of testing.

CDC recommends that clinicians only consider EV-D68 testing for patients with severe respiratory illness and when the cause is unclear.

Respiratory illnesses can be caused by many different viruses and have similar symptoms and not all respiratory illnesses occurring now are due to Ev-D68. Anyone with respiratory illness should contact their doctor if they are having difficulty breathing or if their symptoms are getting worse.

For mild respiratory illness, symptoms can be relieved by over-the-counter medications for pain and fever. CDC advises against aspirin for children.

Protection from the illness is best handled the way you’d protect yourself from a cold, including washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing a diaper; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; avoiding hugging and kissing or sharing cups or eating utensils with sick people and disinfecting surfaces that are touched frequently.

People with asthma are at higher risk for respiratory illness and should take medicines and maintain control of their illness when they contract EV-D68. They should also take advantage of influenza vaccine, since people with asthma have a difficult time with respiratory illness.

If your child develops symptoms, play it safe and see your pediatrician right away.

[Article from the Wakefield Daily Item, written by Gail Lowe and published September, 25, 2014]

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