A rare respiratory virus has affected children in 10 states, including Kentucky. ABC News reported that according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the virus is related to the rhinovirus, which causes the common cold. Unlike the common cold, though, this particular virus is very rare and can lead to wheezing and respiratory distress.
Owensboro Health Pediatrics Dr. Shanna McGinnis said “The strain of enterovirus in the news, D68, can cause mild cold symptoms or flu symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, and body aches. In some patients, especially those with asthma, symptoms can be more severe and include wheezing and difficulty breathing.” Dr. McGinnis advised that children with a fever should be kept home from school until they are free of fever for at least 24 hours.
So far doctors do not know how it started or how it spreads, but this is not the first time the enterovirus 68 has been around. The CDC reported a 2009 outbreak in Georgia and Pennsylvania and a smaller outbreak in Arizona in 2010. This round appears to be much bigger.
Here in Owensboro, schools are preparing and using precautionary measures. “There’s no need to panic, this is just something we have to watch out for,” says Wendi Morgan, the District Health Coordinator for Daviess County Public Schools. “Our schools are being very diligent monitoring students who have cold like symptoms. It can be difficult to tell because it does look just like a cold at first. But it can quickly escalate. That’s why it’s important to notice any changes. If the child starts developing a wheezing noise, then you need to act quickly.” Schools have notified staff to encourage students to wash hands more frequently. “Frequent hand washing is our best line of defense,” said Morgan. Owensboro Public Schools are also encouraging teachers and staff to “take precautions like washing hands and covering your mouth when you cough,” according to district Nurse Gay Lynn Lile.
Heritage Christian School sent an email to parents this week saying the same thing. All children, teachers, and volunteers are asked to wash their hands with soap and water when they enter the school building, before lunch, and before leaving at the end of the day. In addition, Heritage is also disinfecting all desks and computer keyboards after school each day.
“The timing of this outbreak serves as a reminder that flu season is ahead of us,” Dr. McGinnis said. “Unfortunately, there is no cure or vaccine for enterovirus. However, flu vaccine can dramatically decrease the contraction and spread of the flu virus.” The Center for Disease Control recommends that everyone 6 months and older receive an annual flu vaccine.