What you need to know about Enterovirus D68

September 12, 2014 Uma Pisharody, MD, FAAP


Recently, there has been a lot of discussion in the media about a severe type of respiratory illness affecting many children, mainly in the Midwest. The respiratory illness, caused by an infection with Enterovirus D68, is scary to parents, because it’s hard to differentiate whether their child is ill from this particular virus or just has one of the many other viruses that cause cold- and flu-like symptoms around this time of year.
Sometimes media reports leave families with more questions than answers, which is why Dr. Dianne Glover, one of Swedish’s pediatric infectious disease specialists, wanted to share this information with you:

  • Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is an unusual form of an otherwise common group of viruses referred to as Enteroviruses.  These are hardy viruses that usually spread by the respiratory route, but can also spread by fecal-oral route.  It is even possible to become infected by touching a surface contaminated with these viruses.

  • EV-D68 causes a respiratory illness which can quickly progress from a child behaving like they have a simple runny nose and mild cough to then having serious difficulty breathing.  Children infected with this virus may develop pneumonia and require hospitalization.  Children’s hospitals in Kansas City, Columbus, and Chicago are currently experiencing a large increase in hospitalized children/infants with respiratory distress, some requiring mechanical ventilation.

  • EV-D68 is especially dangerous to children with asthma.  If a child with asthma comes down with what seems at first to be a common cold or flu, they need to be watched very closely and given their inhaler therapy in a timely manner.  Like all children having breathing difficulties, parents should seek urgent medical attention if their child is having worsening trouble breathing despite treatment.

The infection with EV-D68 is diagnosed through detecting its viral particles from respiratory tract secretions. There is no specific treatment to kill the virus, and there is no vaccine to prevent being infected.

Since there is no specific cure per se, treatment is purely supportive, helping children to breathe, while the child’s immune system works to fight the virus. Therefore, prevention is key.  Remember to wash hands with soap and warm water, especially after going to the bathroom, and avoid contact with those who are feeling sick.

More information can be found at the CDC’s website.


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