Monday, October 27, 2014
Infectious Disease in the News Pt. II: Enterovirus D68
Enteroviruses are single-stranded RNA viruses that commonly cause disease in the warmer months of the year. Some of the better known enteroviruses include polio, Coxsackie A and B, and echovirus. They can be found in the respiratory secretions and stool of an infected person. Most infections with non-polio enteroviruses are asymptomatic or cause a brief febrile illness, but some have been associated with pleurodynia (inflammation of the lining of the lung), myopericarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart), acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis, aseptic (non-bacterial) meningitis, encephalitis, herpangina (painful mouth blisters), and hand-foot-and-mouth disease.
Enterovirus D68 is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses. First identified in California in 1962, the virus caused sporadic illness similar to the common cold until August 2014 when cases of severe respiratory disease in children were diagnosed in the Midwest. Since that time, cases have been reported from 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. Some have required hospitalization and respiratory support. Children with asthma appear to be at increased risk for more severe respiratory illness. There have also been reports of associated polio-like paralysis though this is less definitive. No antiviral medications are available to treat enteroviruses, and there are no vaccines to prevent disease (other than polio vaccine).
Like other respiratory viruses, D68 spreads from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or touching a surface previously touched by an infected person. So, the best way to protect yourself and prevent spread is through good personal hygiene – hand-washing, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, not sharing cups or eating utensils, disinfecting commonly used surfaces, and covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue.