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What about enterovirus D68 and Michigan? Here are 9 takeaways

Sep 10, 2014

Inside the doctor's office.
Credit Jennifer Morrow / Flickr

We're all hearing about concern over a rare respiratory virus that is affecting kids in the Midwest.

So far the virus has been detected in Illinois and Missouri. Medical professionals in several other states, including Michigan, are now testing patients for the virus.

This week, Mark Pallansch, director of the Center for Disease Control's Division of Viral Diseases, spoke with NPR's Robert Siegel about what they're seeing.

Here are the takeaways from that discussion:

1. To date, the CDC knows of no fatalities that have occurred as a result of the disease. They're examining data now to determine whether any fatalities have occurred.  

2. Parents should watch for any signs of breathing difficulty with their kids – especially in kids with underlying breathing conditions like asthma.

3. There's no specific treatment for the virus. In all situations, the treatment is supportive to assist the child in breathing.

4. It's spread through respiratory droplets, similar to the common cold. Contaminated surfaces can be disinfected.

5. The virus has been around for a long time; we're just better at finding it now. Here's more on that from the CDC's Pallansch:

So the virus was actually first described more than 50 years ago, but has been seldom reported during that period of time. Over those 50 years, our ability to find and detect the virus has improved to the point where we may now be recognizing more frequently what has always occurred in the past. So a lot of these techniques are now being applied more routinely both at the CDC but also at state health departments.

Listen to NPR's conversation with the CDC here:

What's happening in Michigan?

Today on Stateside, we spoke with Dr. Matt Davis, Michigan's chief medical executive. Here are the takeaways from that conversation. 

1. No cases have been confirmed in Michigan yet.

2. There has been uptick in the number of kids (ages 5-17) coming to emergency rooms showing signs of breathing difficulty, and health officials in the state are testing more for the virus.

3. The symptoms of Enterovirus D68 don't look severe at first. The key thing to watch out for is an onset of breathing trouble. 

We know that Enterovirus D68 in Illinois and Missouri was particularly hard for kids with a history of asthma, but we also know that in about a third of cases, the parents say that these kids who were affected didn't even have a history of asthma. So any time a parent sees wheezing, or difficulty breathing, or extended periods of coughing, that's the time to give your doctor a call and talk about whether your child needs to be evaluated.

4. We can prevent the spread of the disease by being extra vigilant – wash your hands, avoid touching common surfaces, and cover your coughs and sneezes.

And we know that a lot of us are slackers when it comes to washing their hands. So step it up, people.

Read more about Enterovirus D68 on the CDC's website.

Listen to Stateside's interview here: