The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recently issued a notice on an increase in reported cases in children from a respiratory disease caused by the virus known as enterovirus D68, first identified in California in 1962.

“Health care providers and hospitals in various regions of the United States reported to CDC during August 2022 an increase in pediatric hospitalizations in patients with severe respiratory illness who also tested positive for rhinovirus (RV) and/or enterovirus. After further typing, some samples tested positive for Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68)“, they indicate in the statement.

What are the warning signs

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Likewise, pediatric acute respiratory disease surveillance centers have also reported a higher proportion of positivity for this enterovirus in children compared to previous years, they add.

For this reason, CDC urges health care providers, laboratories, infection control specialists, and public health departments to report these recent increases in severe respiratory illnesses requiring hospitalization in pediatrics.

Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is one of more than 100 types of non-polio enteroviruses, which usually causes mild respiratory illness with symptoms such as cough, muscle pain and nasal congestion. However, more serious symptoms can also occur, such as shortness of breath or wheezingrequiring hospitalization.

Regarding its prevalence, small outbreaks caused by this virus have been regularly reported to the CDC since 1987. “However, between August and November 2014, the EV-D68 caused a national outbreak of respiratory illness cases in the United States”, they underline. Subsequently, it was detected in late summer and early fall in 2016 and 2018 and, to a lesser extent, in 2020.

Possible complications and risks

One of the risks of EV-D68 is that it can also cause acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), “a rare but serious neurological condition that primarily affects children,” they indicate. This pathology causes a weakening of the muscles and reflexes of the body, although it occurs rarely.

There are no vaccines or specific treatments available to treat the disease caused by this enterovirus, spread from person to person by expelling secretions when coughing or sneezing. Treatment consists of symptom relief and hospitalization if necessary.

The infants, children and adolescents are at higher risk of becoming infected and contract enterovirus disease, since they do not yet have sufficient acquired immunity. “Adults can be infected by enteroviruses, but they are more likely to have no symptoms or, if they do, they are mild,” they add.