What is enterovirus D68 and how can I protect my child from it?

Answers from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.

Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is a virus that can cause an infection similar to the common cold. In some cases, it can cause serious breathing problems.

Enterovirus D68 spreads when a person who is sick with the virus coughs, sneezes or touches a surface that is touched by others. Although adults can get infected with enteroviruses, enterovirus D68 most commonly affects children. Mild signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Body and muscle aches

Severe signs and symptoms may include:

  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing

Children with asthma who become infected may be more likely to have serious breathing problems.

In rare cases, children infected with enterovirus D68 may have problems with their muscles. The muscles can become weak or stop working temporarily (acute paralysis). Experts are unsure whether enterovirus D68 is linked to muscle weakness, but they recommend that parents contact a doctor if their child isn't walking correctly or develops sudden weakness in an arm or leg.

If you suspect your child might have enterovirus D68, contact his or her doctor. Although there is no specific treatment, your child's doctor might have advice about how to ease your child's symptoms. Call the doctor immediately if your child is having trouble breathing or if his or her symptoms don't improve or get worse.

There is no vaccine against enterovirus D68. However, the following steps may help protect your child and prevent the spread of infection:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or shirt sleeve.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, stair rails and toys.
  • Stay home from school, work or child care if you are sick.

If your child has asthma, make sure the asthma action plan is up to date and that he or she takes prescribed medications as directed. Seek medical care if your child develops wheezing or difficulty breathing that doesn't improve with prescribed medications. Get a flu vaccine when it's available.

Sept. 12, 2017 See more Expert Answers