Health officials urge prevention to stem the spread of EV-D68

Enterovirus D68. To some, it’s another medical scare-of-the-week, just another word in a news headline.

To a certain minority of others, however, it’s much more personal. It’s the name of the virus that has attacked family and friends. The virus can cause severe respiratory illness in young children and teens, especially those with asthma or other breathing difficulties.

Enterovirus D68 became a national topic this fall, with the Centers for Disease Control confirming a total of 1,105 cases of respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 in 47 states and the District of Columbia from mid-August to Oct. 31, 2014. The deaths of two young children, one in New Jersey and another in Michigan, have been linked to the virus.

Ohio is among the states affected, and the Dayton Daily News reported last week that the Ohio Department of Health has confirmed eight cases of EV-D68 at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

Since EV-D68 causes respiratory illness, the virus can be found in an infected person’s respiratory system. It likely spreads from person to person when an infected carrier coughs, sneezes, or touches surfaces and contaminates them.

The virus typically causes illness lasting about a week, and most children recover with no lasting problems, health officials say.

The CDC says the virus, which was discovered in California in 1962, is more of a threat to children than adults because children don’t yet have immunity from previous exposures to the virus.

Betina Irwin, a registered nurse at Fairmont High School, also noted that children are at greater risk because they’re inexperienced at prevention measures.

“Often younger kids are more susceptible because they tend to forget to cover their coughs or sneezes, they tend to wash their hands less frequently, and they often share drinks or food,” Irwin said. “Since they don’t have mature immune systems and can become sick very quickly.”

Irwin says she thinks preventing the spread of the virus is the key.

“We are concerned about any outbreak,” she said. “So we use and teach universal precautions. We encourage students to cover their coughs and sneezes.”

While Irwin thinks a Fairmont outbreak is unlikely, she feels confident in Fairmont’s ability to respond to one.

“We take direction from the health department should there be an outbreak. They would direct the school as to how to respond, and our superintendent would make the ultimate decision as to our response,” Irwin said.

The Enterovirus is just one more reason for students to be vigilant in their healthy practices. With proper preventative measures, the virus can be easily avoided.

“The best method for avoiding the virus is prevention,” Irwin said. “That includes frequent hand washing, a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water to maintain hydration, avoiding close contact with those who are sick, cleaning surfaces that have been touched by those who are sick, and seeing your health-care provider when you are ill.”

For more information on Enterovirus D68, click HERE.