Medical Moment: Enterovirus 68

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Dr. Paul Koelliker answers this week’s question: What is Enterovirus 68?

Dr. Paul Koelliker

Enteroviruses are common viruses that cause cold symptoms primarily in the fall months. Enterovirus D-68 (EV-68) is a type of Enterovirus that can cause more severe respiratory symptoms, especially in those with pre-existing respiratory problems like asthma.

EV-68 has caused illness in 16 states and that number is likely to increase as more testing is performed. This outbreak has gained a lot of attention in the press, and has become especially concerning for parents.

EV-68 causes a respiratory illness similar to a cold. In most patients the symptoms and severity will be identical to a cold. Children can tend towards a more severe illness, as this is their first encounter with this type of virus. Individuals, especially children with asthma have been more severely affected sometimes requiring hospitalization. In rare instances children have required ICU care and respiratory support on a ventilator.

Treatment consists of supportive care. There are no anti-viral medications for this type of Enterovirus and antibiotics do not help. Cold medications, rest, and time will work for most patients. Those with asthma might need to increase their asthma medications and might benefit from corticosteroids. Those with severe respiratory compromise may require hospitalization. There is no vaccine for Enterovirus D-68. Symptoms of this virus are similar to other upper respiratory infections including: runny nose, sneezing, coughing, congestion, fever and muscle aches

Prevention consists of basic hygiene that applies to all colds, frequent hand washing, avoiding contact with sick individuals and use of hand sanitizers. Those with asthma should be more cautious.

There were 900 Emergency Department visits across Colorado as of last week, and roughly 10 percent were admitted to the hospital for breathing problems. The total number of infected individuals is not known, but is likely much higher. Parents should be on the lookout for wheezing and shortness of breath, which may require treatment. Otherwise you should treat this infection as you would a common cold.





Editor’s note: The Telluride Medical Center is the only 24-hour emergency facility within 65 miles.

¬†As a mountain town in a challenging, remote environment, a thriving medical center is vital to our community’s health.

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