Never mind the West Nile Virus – which has only claimed four lives in Orange County and has mostly sickened homeless people who sleep outdoors. A far more serious disease has arrived in California and it targets our children. I am referring to Enterovirus D68.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) confirmed four Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) cases in patients in San Diego (3) and Ventura (1) counties earlier this month.
The four Enterovirus D68 cases are the first confirmed cases in California in 2014 due to EV-D68. But the USA Today reported back in February of this year that “A mysterious polio-like syndrome has affected as many as 25 California children, leaving them with paralyzed limbs and little hope of recovery.” That article stated that the disease was not identified but was thought to be an Enterovirus.
There are by the way other specimens from throughout the state being tested at CDPH labs.
More cases are anticipated in the coming weeks. CDPH has asked local health departments to submit samples from all rhinovirus/enterovirus positive specimens from hospitalized children less than 18 years of age or from clusters of cases of any age to CDPH for further typing. Several specimens have been received by CDPH for testing, and testing is underway.
“We are not surprised to find EV-D68 causing some illnesses in California given the apparent widespread nature of this virus in other parts of the country,” said Dr. Chapman.
EV-D68 causes respiratory illness and the virus likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches contaminated surfaces. Symptoms of EV-D68 include fever (although fever may not be present), runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches. Some children have more serious illness with breathing difficulty and wheezing, particularly children with a history of asthma.
Parents should seek medical attention immediately for children who are having any breathing difficulty (wheezing, difficulty speaking or eating, belly pulling in with breaths, blueness around the lips), particularly if the child suffers from asthma. There is no specific treatment for persons with EV-D68, nor is there a vaccine to prevent it. However, everyone six months of age and older should receive influenza vaccine every year to protect themselves against that important cause of respiratory disease.
The best way to prevent transmission of enteroviruses is to:
• Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
• Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
• Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
Additional information about EV-D68 can be found on the CDC website.