Back To School Means Back To Germs: What Is Enterovirus D68?
Back to school time means back to little ones spreading germs, and in case you haven’t heard, there’s a new bug sweeping schools all across the nation. It’s called enterovirus D68, and it has hospitalized more than 1,000 children since it first erupted in the Midwest back in August. Initially reported in Kansas and Missouri, the virus has since spread to almost four dozen states including Georgia, Colorado, Illinois, Connecticut, Ohio, New York and New Jersey.
So what is enterovirus D68 and what symptoms should you be looking for?
Enterovirus D68 is a respiratory virus that first manifests as a common cold with telltale signs such as sneezing, coughing, and runny nose; but eventually progresses to wheezing, difficulty eating, breathing, or speaking, especially in children with asthma. It’s even suspected that extreme cases of enterovirus D68 has led to limb paralysis. The bad news is that this infection has no antidote, which is why so many have been forced to hospitals for treatment.
How likely is your child to contract it?
The virus is highly contagious and easily spread through respiratory secretions like mucus and saliva, as well as through feces. So simple hand to hand contact, sneezing, coughing and other close human contact could led to a trip to your nearest emergency room. That’s why it’s important to teach your child(ren) proper hand-washing and sanitation techniques.
Make sure your little one (or big one) knows how to effectively wash his or her hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after going potty and before every meal. (Maybe help them to create their own hand-washing song so that they are excited about cleaning their mitts on a regular basis.) It would also be a good idea to stress that they keep their hands out of their faces and mouths, especially after touching germy surfaces like doorknobs or table tops.
Dr. John Young, a longtime emergency room physician now specializing in the treatment of chronic and genetic diseases, notes that the children becoming infected have underlying lung or neurological diseases. “They have immune systems that are compromised,” he says. “Parents can protect themselves and their kids by maximizing their immune system, and the easiest way to do that is with vitamin D.”
To help them out with their germ intake, invest in alcohol-based hand sanitizers to keep in their backpacks or uniform pockets. Promoting the cough-and-sneeze-into-your-arm-fold technique wouldn’t be such a bad idea either. And of course, if you notice your child is showing signs of sickness, be sure to keep them from school and schedule the quickest appointment with your family doctor. If he or she exhibits any of the more serious symptoms listed above (wheezing, shortness of breath, etc.), rush them to your nearest emergency room and get them treated right away!
Keep in mind parents: Just like with the cold and flu, there’s no sure way to prevent your children from being infected by this new epidemic. But with a knack for finger-cleansing and soapy-suds, you can surely help them decrease their chances.