Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is a type of virus that causes upper respiratory illness. EV-D68 is a non-polio enterovirus. Non-polio enteroviruses are very common viruses, causing 10 to 15 million infections in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
EV-D68 is not a new virus, and typically causes low-grade fever, cough, runny nose, sneezing and body/muscle aches.
Many more cases of EV-D68 have been reported this season, which warrants increased attention to good preventive health and infection control practices by individuals and families. While EV-D68 complications do not occur frequently, they can be serious.
Enterovirus infections in the U.S. tend to occur seasonally during the summer and fall, and outbreaks tend to occur in several-year cycles.
Anyone can be infected with respiratory enteroviruses. Most people who get infected only experience a mild illness, such as a common cold. But infants, children and teenagers, as well as people with weakened immune systems, are more likely to get infected and become sick. Children do not have immunity from prior exposure to the viruses, so, young children and people with weakened immune systems have a greater chance of complications.
EV-D68 typically causes upper respiratory illness, such as a low-grade fever, cough, runny nose, sneezing, and muscle/body aches. Some people have no symptoms at all. But other people can experience complications and become very sick, and require hospitalization.
Some people with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, may experience severe complications and require hospitalization and supportive therapy. Complications can include viral conjunctivitis; hand, foot and mouth disease; viral meningitis (infection of the covering of the spinal cord and/or brain), myocarditis (infection of the heart), pericarditis (infection of the sac around the heart), encephalitis (infection of the brain), and paralysis. People who develop myocarditis may have heart failure and require long-term care. Some people who develop encephalitis or paralysis may not fully recover.
The virus spreads through close contact with an infected person such as touching or shaking hands; through body fluids including eye, nose and mouth secretions (saliva, nasal mucus, or phlegm), blister fluid, or feces; or by touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. You also can get the virus by changing the diapers of a child who has the virus, or by drinking water that has the virus in it. The virus can also be "shed" from the respiratory tract of persons who have been sick for 1-3 weeks. Infected people can shed the virus even if they don't have symptoms.
There is no vaccine available for EV-D68, and no antiviral medication available to treat it.
Because EV-D68 shares common symptoms and complications with colds and flu, the best protection is getting an annual flu vaccine for yourself and your loved ones.
You also can keep yourself and your family well by observing standard infection control procedures, including:
If you have questions, talk to your family doctor, your pediatrician, or the hospital for information. You also can visit the CDC's website.