Enterovirus Alert: Important Message to Parents Everywhere
The fall and winter months always bring us beautiful fall foliage, but unfortunately fall also brings us the influenza season. Yuck!
As a parent I’ve been really worried ever since I heard the first news report about a new outbreak of the Enterovirus. At the time of that first report, it hadn’t come to my home state of Connecticut, but unfortunately it is now here. Enterovirus D68 may cause severe respiratory illness in some children and adolescents, and it can happen quickly.
The Enterovirus is spread through an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum. It may also be spread through the air or when someone touches a contaminated surface.
In most children, the Enterovirus will cause mild symptoms including, fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing and body and muscle aches. However some children may become very ill; in these cases the typical symptoms include difficulty with breathing, a possible fever and wheezing. Many of the children who have become very ill with this Enterovirus have had a history of asthma. The CDC says it is important for parents to seek medical attention if at any time their sick child begins to experience difficulty breathing or wheezing.
Experts tell us that it is not possible to predict what the rate of infection will be in the coming weeks around the country, so we each need to take extra precautions in our homes to minimize the spread of both Enterovirus as well as the common flu.
As parents we must be even more vigilant this year to help minimize the spread of the Enterovirus and the common influenza. Here are some steps we can all follow:
- Consult with your health care provider regarding flu shots: The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older.
- Teach your children preventive strategies: Avoid close contact with others (good luck on this one, especially at recess time); covering their mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing; coughing or sneezing into an elbow rather than hand; disposing of used tissues into a wastebasket; frequently washing their hands (or using an alcohol-based sanitizer if hand washing is not feasible); and not touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
- Keep your children home from school and activities when they have early symptoms indicative of illness, including fever, headache, runny nose, extreme fatigue, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. Individuals may be contagious for at least one day before the onset of symptoms and to up to seven days after getting sick.
- Consult with your child’s physician should you have questions regarding the prevention and treatment of flu and flu-like illness in your family.
- Keep your children home until they are fully recovered from the illness (e.g., have had no fever, vomiting or diarrhea for at least 24 hours; are no longer significantly fatigued or in need of extra sleep; and have significantly reduced respiratory symptoms). A normal temperature in the morning does not indicate the end of fever or illness. It is not unusual for fever to be absent in the early morning hours but appear (or reappear) in the afternoon or evening hours. A minimum of a full 24 hours of normal temperature – without Tylenol or other fever- reducing medication – is essential before a child returns to school. Recovery from the acute phase of the illness may require seven or more days of rest and care at home; full recuperation may take two weeks or more.
- Never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms – and particularly fever – without first speaking to your doctor because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disease. If parents and staff members follow these guidelines—and collaborate in teaching children effective prevention strategies—we will succeed in decreasing the spread of flu and other illnesses within the school community. In turn, we will succeed in protecting some of our more vulnerable community members.
- Be knowledgeable regarding Enterovirus D68 and influenza. For current information, see: http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio enterovirus/about EV-D68