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An outbreak of Enterovirus 68 has been occurring since the summer of 2014. While most cases are not serious, some children have required hospitalization.

Enterovirus is a common cause of illness in humans. Enterovirus is not just one specific virus. Outbreaks of different strains of the virus occur periodically. For reasons not known, outbreaks of enterovirus 68 have been occurring throughout the United States since the summer of 2014.

What to Know about Enterovirus 68

When an unusual number of infections are reported, such as with enterovirus 68, it can spread fear among parents. But becoming educated on the realities of the disease can take some of the fear out of the situation. It is important for parents to learn the facts about enterovirus 68 in order to help protect their children, but also to ease concerns.

Enterovirus is not new. Various strains of the virus have circulated every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent, infections with enterovirus 68 have been occurring in various parts of the United States since 1987. But in 2014, there has been anoutbreak of enterovirus 68 across the United States. The CDC confirmed a much greater incidence of infections with enterovirus 68 in 2014 than in previous years.

This strain of enterovirus can cause respiratory symptoms, primarily in children.

Although many of the children infected only develop mild to moderate symptoms, some children are developing severe symptoms.  

Enterovirus outbreaks can occur any time of the year, but they are usually more common in the summer and fall months. The illness may spread more easily in the fall when children have returned to school after summer break.

The virus is transmitted through respiratory secretions, such as saliva and mucus. For instance, if an infected person sneezes and you are close enough to breathe in the tiny respiratory secretions, you may become infected.

In addition, the virus can be passed on through contact with a surface, which was infected from someone with the virus. For example, if someone infected with enterovirus 68 coughed into their hand and touched a tabletop, the virus can live on the surface for several hours. Other people who touch the surface and then rub their eyes or touch their mouth or nose can become infected. 

Enterovirus Symptoms

Symptoms of Enterovirus 68 can come on suddenly and start like typical cold symptoms. A runny nose, cough and fever are often symptoms. Since these symptoms are also common with a cold or the flu, every time a child has a runny nose or cough does not mean they are infected with the enterovirus.

According to the Enterovirus Foundation, symptoms can vary and may also include sinus congestion, body aches and fever. Some children may also develop gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

At first, symptoms may be mild, but in some cases, the illness will progress and symptoms can become more severe. 

Trouble breathing, wheezing and decreased oxygen levels in the blood are more serious symptoms, which require immediate medical treatment.

Although anyone can develop serious symptoms with enterovirus 68, children with medical conditions such as asthma, are more likely to develop trouble breathing, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

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