Hundreds of children across the Midwest and some bordering states have been hospitalized for what appear
to be severe summer colds that are caused by enterovirus. As one of many common summer viruses that cause colds, enteroviruses are not unusual this time of year but hospitalizations for enteroviruses are. The majority of patients presenting with symptoms of
enterovirus up to this point have been children but adults can also contract the illness. Prevention of illness is important no matter your age.
Typically with enterovirus infections, symptoms will be mild and treatment of these symptoms will
be the only intervention necessary. It is believed that the enterovirus currently causing most of the hospitalizations across the Midwest is enterovirus D68, which can cause fever and severe respiratory symptoms. Children with asthma are at higher risk due
to their increased chances of wheezing.
Lindsay Uzunlar, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, shares some important prevention
measures and symptoms parents should watch for in their children:
Symptoms The symptoms of enterovirus are the same as a bad cold. Similar to colds, there isn’t much that
can be done except to treat symptoms and let the virus run its course. Most infections will be mild but some could eventually require hospitalization and intensive supportive therapy. If symptoms are especially severe including difficulty breathing, fevers
lasting longer than 72 hours or if a child with asthma is wheezing, contact your child’s pediatrician or seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Here are some of the more common symptoms of colds, including those caused by enterovirus:
Prevention Wash hands often. There is no better way to prevent
the spread of infection. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, multiple times per day. This is especially important for school age children. Encourage your child’s teacher to schedule hand washing at various points throughout the day.
Model good hygiene. Make sure that your family practices proper coughing techniques such as coughing/sneezing into the elbow instead of the hand. If you do use a tissue or cough into your hands, make sure to wash them immediately afterwards.
Clean surfaces. Make sure you are cleaning surfaces that are touched frequently, including keyboards, doorknobs, phones, toys, countertops.
Stay home. If you or your children are feeling sick, think of others and
stay home to prevent the spread of infection to co-workers and other children.
Have questions about enterovirus or any other pediatric illness? NorthShore's new online community, The
Parent 'Hood, has answers. Join today to connect with other parents in the community as well as our expert physicans. Click here to start now.
Thomson, PhD, Director of the Microbiology Laboratory and Division Head of Clinical Pathology at NorthShore, provides answers to some common questions regarding the Ebola virus:
How is it transmitted?
It is not known to be airborne. Ebola is passed through direct contact with bodily fluids and specimens from patients infected with the virus. So it is family, caretakers and healthcare workers with close contact to an infected person who face the
greatest risk if they don’t take the right precautions.
Can you contract Ebola from contact with someone who does not exhibit any symptoms?
No. An individual who is infected but not exhibiting symptoms is not contagious. If a person is symptomatic, he or she can spread the virus but only through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood. So, as an example, if you were sitting next
to someone on a plane who developed symptoms of Ebola a week or 10 days later, you were not at risk for infection because they were asymptomatic at the time.
How are American healthcare workers being infected with the virus?
Unfortunately, the ability of healthcare workers in Africa to protect themselves is different from the ability of healthcare workers to protect themselves in the United States. They do not have the facilities that we have here in this country. In the
U.S., we have the facilities and training to handle many different infections of various risks. And while Ebola presents one of the greatest risks to healthcare workers, we have procedures in place that will be used to handle any Ebola patients who enter the
How is the spread of the virus to the United States being prevented?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have specific procedures in place to follow if they feel that someone on a plane is symptomatic. That person would arrive in the United States and be put immediately in the
appropriate containment in one of our hospitals. They also have screening efforts ongoing in West Africa to prevent symptomatic persons from getting on planes. By following those procedures, the spread of the virus into the United States is very unlikely.