What Is Enterovirus D68?

Enterovirus D68 is a virus that can make you feel like you have a cold. If it's severe, it could also make you wheeze or have trouble breathing, especially if you have asthma or other respiratory problems.

Most cases are mild and last about a week, but if it's severe, you may need to go to the hospital.

Babies, children, and teens are the most likely to get it. People with weak immune systems have the biggest risk for severe complications.

This virus isn't new. Experts first identified it in 1962. In the decades since then, it only seemed to impact a very small number of people. That changed in 2014, when the CDC reported a national outbreak.

There are more than 100 other enteroviruses.

Symptoms

You could have a fever, a runny nose, sneezing, and coughing. You might feel achy, too.

The virus can also lead to wheezing and trouble breathing, especially in children who have asthma or other respiratory problems.

It's very rare, but enteroviruses may cause other serious problems, such as muscle paralysis or inflammation of the brain or heart.

Who's At Risk?

Anyone can get it, but children age 6 weeks to 16 years may be especially vulnerable.

Infants and people who have immune system disorders are the most likely to develop severe complications.

How It Spreads

You can catch this virus the same way you would catch the common cold: by having close contact with someone who's infected -- especially if that person coughs or sneezes on you -- or by touching a contaminated surface.

You can lower your chances of getting it by following these tips:

  • Wash your hands often. Scrub with soap for 20 seconds.
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you've just washed your hands.
  • Don't hug, kiss, or share food with anyone who's sick.
  • If someone in your house is ill, it's a good idea to regularly disinfect surfaces that are touched a lot, such as toys and doorknobs.

Treatment

No medicines target this virus. Antibiotics won't help, since the illness is not caused by bacteria.

You can take an over-the-counter pain reliever, which might help you feel a little better, just like with a normal cold.

If your symptoms are severe, you should call your doctor or go to the emergency room.

If it's an emergency -- for instance, you're having trouble breathing -- call 911. You may need to be hospitalized.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on September 11, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Growing Enterovirus Outbreak Ensnaring Children, Teens."

CDC: "Enterovirus D68," "Non-Polio Enterovirus," "Severe Respiratory Illness Associated with Enterovirus D68--Missouri and Illinois, 2014."

Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians: "Clinical Advisory Regarding Enterovirus D68."

Oberste, M. Journal of General Virology, May 2004.

University of California San Francisco: "Rare Polio-Like Disease in California."

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