Enterovirus 68 (patient information)
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Enterovirus 68 On the Web
Enterovirus 68, or HEV-D68 is a non-polio enterovirus. Non-polio enteroviruses are very common viruses, causing about 10 to 15 million infections in the United States each year. Enterovirus 68 on the other hand, is a much rarer disease that occurs in small epidemics. Patients usually have symptoms similar to a common cold. Less commonly, a person may develop severe respiratory infection requiring hospitalization. Transmission may occur through exposure to respiratory droplets released from infected persons when sneezing or coughing, close contact with an infected person, and contact with objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus. In the United States, people are more likely to get infected with non-polio enteroviruses in the summer and fall. People at highest risk are infants, children, and teenagers. The virus may be detected in specimens collected from the mouth, nose, or respiratory system. There is no specific treatment for enterovirus 68. People with mild illness caused by the virus only need treatment of symptoms. If complications occur, patients require hospitalization. There is no vaccine to protect against enterovirus 68. Preventive measures to avoid infection include: washing hands often with soap and water; avoid close contact with people who are sick; and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
What are the Symptoms of enterovirus 68?
- Most people who are infected with enterovirus 68 only develop mild disease. Symptoms may include:
- The disease may be more severe in younger children and require hospitalization. Children may have:
- Difficulty breathing
- Wheezing or worsening of asthma
- Convulsions due to high fever
What are the Causes of Enterovirus 68?
Enterovirus 68, or HEV-D68, is the organism responsible for Enterovirus 68 infection.
The enterovirus 68 can be transmitted by droplets released from the respiratory tract when an infected person sneezes of coughs. This form of transmission may last for 1 to 3 weeks. Other bodily fluids that may contain the virus include saliva, nasal mucus, sputum, and blister fluid (in those with rash). Infected people can transmit the virus even if they don't have symptoms.
You can get exposed to the virus by:
- Having close contact with infected persons, such as touching or shaking hands
- Touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them
Who is at Highest Risk?
Anyone can get infected with enterovirus 68. But infants, children, and teenagers are more likely to get infected and become sick. Younger children can get very sick and require hospitalization following enterovirus 68 infection.
When to Seek Urgent Medical Care?
If you are concerned about your symptoms or those of a family member, you should consider seeking medical care. Symptoms of severe respiratory disease such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, severe cough, and very high fever should be investigated by your health care provider.
Infection with non-polio enteroviruses such as Enterovirus 68 can be confirmed by identifying the virus by a DNA test known as the polymerase chain reaction or PCR assay.
Enterovirus 68 can be detected in specimens collected from the mouth, nose, or respiratory system. Depending on the symptoms other specimen types, such as cerebrospinal fluid, blister fluid, and blood, can be collected for testing.
There is no specific treatment for enterovirus 68 infection. People with mild illness only require treatment of their symptoms. They usually recover completely. However, more severe signs of respiratory disease require hospitalization and possibly intensive care to support and maintain breathing.
Where to Find Medical Care for Enterovirus 68?
What to Expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
Most persons with enterovirus 68 infection recover fully without any long-term health problems. In a minority of patients, particularly children, the virus may lead to a severe infection of the lungs (pneumonia) requiring hospitalization, and very rarely leading to death.
The effects of Enterovirus 68 in pregnant women are not clear due to the rare occurrence of this disease. Currently, there is no evidence that pregnant women with enterovirus 68 infection will have severe complications, like miscarriage, stillbirth, or congenital defects.
The virus may sometimes lead to a severe infection of the lungs (pneumonia) requiring hospitalization.
Currently, there is no vaccine to protect from Enterovirus 68. The only means of prevention are:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after using the toilet, changing diapers, or being on contact with sick individuals
- Avoiding close contact, such as touching and shaking hands, with people who are sick
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces