We are currently being flooded with phone calls and office visits from parents worried about the Enterovirus D68 that’s been in the news recently. This particular virus is not a “new” virus; it was first identified in California in 1962. However, it seems to be responsible for a significant outbreak of respiratory illness nationwide this year, including in New Jersey. While it’s good for parents to know what viruses are circulating in our community, it’s also important to keep things in perspective. With that in mind, here are some important points to understand about your child and Enterovirus D68:
  •  Most children who develop Enterovirus D68 infection will simply have typical cold symptoms (congestion and cough) which will seem just like any other “common cold” and will go away on its own, just like any other cold virus.
  •  A small percentage of children who develop Enterovirus D68 infection may develop wheezing and trouble breathing from their lungs. This is much more likely to happen if a child has a history of asthma or wheezing, especially if their condition is not well-controlled.
  • Enterovirus D68 is just one of  many viruses that we see every year (such as the flu and RSV, among others) which can also cause wheezing and trouble breathing in susceptible children.
  • There is no specific treatment for this infection; the only treatment is for the wheezing and trouble breathing if present, just like for any other virus. And of course, just like with any other viral infection, antibiotics will not help at all.
  • There is no office test for this infection. The only patients even being tested are those who are sick enough to be in the Intensive Care Unit, and those tests are only for research and surveillance purposes, since they must be sent out to the CDC and take weeks for the results to come back. Therefore, even if we examine your child, we will not be able to tell you if your child has this particular virus.

In summary, even with all the news reporting of Enterovirus D68, there is nothing different that we would do as doctors, and nothing different that you would do as a parent, if your child has an illness now, compared to before the media coverage of this outbreak.

If your child has a history of asthma or wheezing illnesses, the best course of action, as always, is to make sure your child’s asthma is under control, make sure your child is on his or her asthma controller medications if appropriate, and to make sure your child gets his or her flu vaccine this fall.

And as always, with any illness, if you are concerned that your child is having trouble breathing, or if you have any other concerns about your child’s health, you should contact us.