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Doctors treat possible cases of Enterovirus D68 in children

Helen Adams | MUSC News Center | October 10, 2014

Enterovirus D68
Helen Adams

Children with asthma are especially susceptible to Enterovirus D68, which has caused severe respiratory problems in some cases. 

Doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina say Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is suspected in about a dozen cases in the children’s intensive care unit, but all of the patients have either recovered or are in the process of getting better.

None has had any of the mysterious neurological symptoms that have appeared in a cluster of suspected EVD-68 patients in Colorado, and the only deaths directly linked to EVD 68 were in New Jersey and Michigan.

CDC infographic Enterovirus D68
Source: CDC
Click here to see an infographic about how to reduce your chances of getting EV-D68 or other fall illnesses. 

“It’s an interesting outbreak and it’s increased our numbers and made us busier,” said Keith Borg, M.D., who works in pediatric emergency medicine at MUSC.

“But compared to influenza and a lot of other things we see, it’s not that bad here.”

Enteroviruses are actually common, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people who are infected with them either don’t get sick at all or just feel like you’d expect with the common cold.

What’s unusual this year are the reports of children in Colorado who tested positive for Enterovirus D68 (a particular strain of Enterovirus) who also suffered from “limb weakness and abnormalities of the spinal cord gray matter on MRI,” according to a CDC health advisory.

Borg said, like the CDC, he’s waiting for more data.

“If it were a more polio-like virus or something like rabies that attacks the neurologic system, you would probably see more kids who have it. Most kids would have neurologic symptoms, not just a few,” Borg said. “A cluster like we’re seeing in Colorado is really interesting, but we’re a long way from saying the temporary paralysis is definitely due to D68.”

What should parents do in the meantime?

Keep an eye on their kids’ cold symptoms, according to Borg. Most mothers and fathers are used to getting out the tissues and chicken soup this time of year.

Also, he said, keep in mind that children are more likely than adults to become infected with Enterovirus D68 because they haven’t had the time to build their immunity to such viruses. And kids with other health problems such as asthma are at greater risk of developing certain symptoms associated with Enterovirus D68, such as labored breathing. But children without asthma can suffer from those symptoms too.

Borg noticed something else in the suspected Enterovirus D68 cases. “The virus progresses in a couple of days,” Borg said. “The interesting thing is most of our patients are getting better fairly quickly too. It’s not a long, protracted illness.”

While Borg and his colleagues at MUSC have not been overwhelmed by possible cases of Enterovirus D68, they’re remaining vigilant. They’ve watched as doctors in Denver and Kansas City found themselves suddenly swamped with cases.

“My only fear is, where are we on that trajectory?” Borg said. “If it’s going to get a lot worse, it could get really interesting."



Related Stories >>

NPR: Four things learned about Enterovirus D68

CNN: What is Enterovirus D68?

Forbes: Enterovirus and flu more dangerous than Ebola in U.S. 

Keith Borg, M.D., raises awareness about drowning prevention

Resources >>

CDC: Enterovirus D68

MUSC Children's Hospital Pediatric Emergency Room

MUSC Children's After Hours Care

MUSC News Center archives


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