Posted on 11 September 2014.
Seattle health officials are working with Seattle Children’s Hospital to investigate a cluster of patients with severe respiratory illness who tested positive for a possible enterovirus infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working to determine if the Seattle-area patients have the strain of enterovirus, EV-D68, that appears to be spreading in other U.S. states, particularly in the midwest.
As of today, September 11, there are no confirmed cases of EV-D68 in Washington, but health officials suspect the virus will show up. “Although we can’t currently say that these cases are definitely due to EV-D68, it would not be surprising if the virus is confirmed on further testing,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Chief of Communicable Disease and Epidemiology at Public Health-Seattle & King County.
Enteroviruses are very common, with over 100 types. But the EV-D68 type has previously been uncommon in the United States. Current outbreaks of EV-D68 in other states are resulting in significant numbers of children requiring emergency department visits and hospitalizations, primarily for difficulties with breathing, complicated by severe asthma. U.S. health officials are still learning about the illness and risk factors for infection. Check for updates here.
Health officials report that if EV-D68 does appear locally it is likely to spread rapidly and widely, as the virus is communicated like the common cold. Children with asthma or compromised immune systems who contract the disease are at greater risk for serious respiratory symptoms.
Kitsap Public Health District spokesperson Karen Bevers said that as of yet there are no confirmed cases of the virus in Kitsap County.
EV-D68 can be present in saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum and is believed to spread from person to person through coughs, sneezes, or contact with contaminated surfaces. Infants, children, and teenagers are most likely to get infected with the disease and become sick.
EV-D68 causes mild to severe respiratory symptoms, including runny nose, cough, and difficulty breathing, sometimes with a fever. A minority of people, typically asthmatics, may have more serious infections.
According to Public Health-Seattle & King County, anyone who has difficulty breathing or who appears seriously ill should be evaluated promptly by a doctor.
Tips to Prevent EV-D68 Infection
There are no vaccines for enterovirus infections. To decrease the risk for such infections, Public Health-Seattle & King County recommends the following:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds (alcohol hand gel is not as effective as hand washing for fighting enteroviruses).
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid contact with ill people.
- Do not go to day care, school, or work while ill.
- Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, toys, telephones, and computers, especially if someone is sick.
Image courtesy of AJ Cann.