1. What is EV68? Enterovirus 68 (EV68) is not a new virus, but over the past few years it has caused outbreaks of respiratory illness in the fall. These outbreaks are similar to what we see later in the year with influenza and RSV. What's different is that these outbreaks happen earlier in the fall and with a different virus.
2. Who does this virus infect? In the current outbreak, most patients are children under 16 with a prior history of asthma or wheezing. Symptoms include rapid onset of cough, wheezing and difficulty breathing. EV68 rarely causes fever. Most children with suspected EV68 infection respond quickly to supportive care that includes breathing treatments, such as inhalers prescribed by your doctor.
3. What should I look out for? If your child develops rapid onset of cough, wheezing or difficulty breathing, start your child's usual asthma rescue medications if he or she has them and make an appointment with your doctor. If your child has never wheezed before and seems to be wheezing now, call for an appointment. While most patients do not require hospitalization, children can develop symptoms rapidly, so a quick call or same day visit may be necessary.
4. Is there an antibiotic I can take or a vaccine? No, EV68 is a virus so antibiotics do not treat it and there are no currently available antiviral medications that treat EV68. There is also no vaccine. However, that does not mean that your child can't be treated. Children with severe respiratory distress can receive several forms of breathing treatments that reduce their symptoms and get them on the road to recovery.
5. Who should be tested for EV68? At this time, routine testing of patients with wheezing illnesses is not recommended. Patient with acute respiratory distress who are admitted to the hospital or ICU may be tested. Respiratory support should continue for other patients regardless of whether they have EV68 or another respiratory virus..
6. Are pregnant women at risk? Pregnant women have a greater chance of being infected if they do not have immunity (protection) from previous infection with EV68. However, most pregnant women who become infected will not get sick, or they will only have mild illness. Right now, there is no clear evidence that pregnant women with enterovirus infection will have severe complications, like miscarriage, stillbirth, or congenital defects. But, if a pregnant woman is infected shortly before delivery, she can pass the virus to her baby. These babies usually have only mild illness. In rare cases, they may have severe infection.