Can Enterovirus Kill You?

Enterovirus Affects the Very Young the Worst

Protect Against Enterovirus

Enterovirus D68 is the newest deadly strain of flu to make its way into the news stories of the day. First identified in 1962 in California according to the Centers for Disease Control, the deadly enterovirus is a virus with over 100 known strains that can cause infection ranging from the simple common cold, to meningitis. 

Because the virus lives in the GI tract, they are also responsible for gastrointestinal illness. It may also cause some neurological problems, muscle weakness and paralysis, but these 
symptoms are uncommon. There are versions of the enterovirus that imitate the effects of polio, however, the recent strain circulating the country is a non-polio strain.

The most recent strain of enterovirus has the most devastating effect on the very young, and those with weakened immune systems. Children with asthma in particular can experience the most dire symptoms, and in the worst case scenario, enterovirus can be fatal.

If your child exhibits symptoms such as cough, sneezing, fever, body aches, difficulty breathing or wheezing, contact a health care provider immediately to rule out the possibility of enterovirus. Because it affects young children, who have no real immunity to disease, getting to a doctor early is essential to effective treatment.

To date, there have been approximately 500 cases of enterovirus scattered over most of the United States. Because many cases go unreported, that number may be significantly higher than reports indicate. The virus is spread through respiratory secretions that include saliva, spit and nasal discharge. Summer and Fall are the most likely time a person would contract the enterovirus.

The CDC recommends using these tips to keep you and your family healthy and free of the enterovirus.
  • Use soap when you wash your hands. Wash often and for 20 seconds or more.
  • Don’t touch your face
  • Avoid close contact with those who are already sick.
  • Cover mouths when coughing or sneezing. Cough into a sleeve, or shoulder, not your hand. Your hands spread germs.
  • Keep surfaces clean. Bleach kills most viruses.
  • Do not go to school or work when sick.

There are currently no antiviral medications or cure for enterovirus, however, you can protect yourself from contracting and spreading it by following basic preventative measures. If you or someone you know does contract enterovirus, watch carefully for signs that may indicate the virus is at a serious stage. A person who is wheezing or having difficulty breathing should get to a doctor or hospital immediately. Enterovirus at this stage can be fatal.

Update caregivers about what procedures they should follow if they suspect your child has an infection, in particular if your child has asthma or other breathing problems. Children with asthma should be monitored especially carefully if enterovirus is suspected. Have an action plan with your care provider, and medications on hand should illness occur.