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CDC Issues Health Alert About Enterovirus D68 in Kids: What to Know

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Enterovirus D68, a virus that typically causes respiratory symptoms and, in rare cases, severe illness in children, is likely fueling a rise in pediatric hospitalizations in the US, according to a recent health advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The virus, known as EV-D68, belongs to a group of non-polio enteroviruses, which are pretty common and tend to circulate this time of year.

EV-D68 itself isn’t new—it was first identified in California in 1962—and this isn’t the first time the virus has captured the attention of public health experts, Waleed Javaid, MD, an epidemiologist and the Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Mount Sinai in New York City, tells SELF. In 2014, we had a “reasonably bigger outbreak” of EV-D68, which primarily affected young children with asthma, Dr. Javaid says.

The CDC has been tracking the virus more closely since then, and the agency is currently “noticing there are more cases than they have seen in the recent past,” Dr. Javaid adds. But how concerned should you be about this advisory, and what should parents be especially aware of right now? Here’s what you should know about EV-D68, including its symptoms and what you can do to keep you and your family healthy this cold and flu season.

What symptoms can enterovirus D68 typically cause?

Non-polio enteroviruses like EV-D68 usually cause mild, cold-like illness, per the CDC. People in the US, most commonly children and teenagers, usually get infected in the summer and fall, but anyone can get sick with EV-D68 year-round.

The following are all potential symptoms of EV-D68, according to the CDC:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing

In rare cases, children with EV-D68 can develop a serious neurologic condition, called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which affects the nervous system and weakens the body’s muscles and reflexes. Since the CDC first began tracking AFM in August 2014, there have been 692 confirmed cases. To put that into perspective, there have been just 13 confirmed cases in 2022. In the past, spikes in reported AFM cases have coincided with spikes in reported EV-D68 cases.

While uncommon, AFM can cause the following symptoms, any of which warrant immediate medical care:

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  • Arm or leg weakness
  • Pain in the neck, back, arms, or legs
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty moving the eyes
  • Facial weakness or drooping

All children—from infants to teenagers—are more likely to get sick from EV-D68 than adults, probably because their immune systems haven’t been exposed to it in the past, per the CDC. Children with asthma are especially high risk, Dr. Javaid adds.

Can adults get sick with enterovirus D68?

Technically, a virus can infect anyone, but adults are not likely to get severely ill or “highly symptomatic” from EV-D68, Dr. Javiad says. As we head into the colder months, you may understandably be wondering how to tell the difference between EV-D68 and other circulating viruses, including the common cold, flu, and COVID-19. Unfortunately, there isn’t always an easy way to know for sure unless you get tested.

Source: Self

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