While the nation has been worrying about Ebola, enterovirus D68 has been hitting the youngest in our nation. Enterovirus D68, a disease that acts and spreads like the flu, has been affecting hundreds of kids around the nation.
The number is actually most likely higher, but officials have only been able to confirm that many, at least partially due to approved labs being bogged down by the sheer number of tests.
The first two cases have only just been reported in Florida, with one of the kids affected having already recovered from it, but enterovirus D68 has swept through the Midwest. The virus causes a respiratory infection, and most kids who are hit by the virus experience flu-like symptoms and then move on with their lives.
However, there have been reported cases in several states where kids who got enterovirus D68 began suffering from paralysis after getting sick. These cases are currently being investigated, but as Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer and executive director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, put it, "it's a pretty rare complication."
Kids with asthma or similar lung issues can be badly affected if they get the virus. Enterovirus D68 often hits them more severely, as these kids have less lung space to compensate for not breathing as deeply or as strongly, and that can lead to hospitalization in extreme cases.
And while those same kids might be protected during flu season by a shot at the local pharmacy or doctor's office, there is currently no vaccine for enterovirus D68.
That doesn't mean that there aren't ways to protect yourself and your family from the virus, though. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the same hygiene tips for enterovirus that it recommends for regular flu seasons: washing your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands and avoiding close contact with those who are sick.
For those who might get sick, though, the best cures are readily available over the counter. Aspirin and fever reducers should help manage the worst of it, and after that the virus should be able to run its course in a few days.
There currently isn't an antiviral medicine approved for treating enterovirus D68. The fact that this is a virus means that antibacterial medications won't even touch it, as it treats an entirely different group of illnesses.
The typical season for the virus is similar to that of the flu, spanning from summer to late fall, so while the virus will still be around for a little longer, it should be dying out soon. Flu vaccines are, as always, still highly recommended for anyone who can get them.