By Mary Kuhlman
A common respiratory virus is raising concerns in Indiana, as there's been a recent surge in cases in surrounding states. The enterovirus D-68 causes upper-respiratory illness and mild symptoms such as low-grade fever, cough, runny nose, and body aches.
Indiana State epidemiologist Pam Pontones says those with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, may experience more severe complications requiring hospitalization.
"Some of the more severe symptoms include wheezing and shortness of breath and difficulty speaking," Pontones says. "So, someone who has developed symptoms of a cold that progress to that severity certainly needs to contact a health-care provider right away."
Hospitals statewide are reporting an increase in the number of children with respiratory illness, but Pontones says it's unclear if it's related to the recent surge of enterovirus D-68 infections in other states. While typically a common virus, this month it has been linked to the hospitalization of hundreds of children in Missouri and Illinois, and is suspected in several other states.
The Indiana Department of Health is working with local health departments and health-care providers to monitor for cases of enterovirus D-68 and the C-D-C is assisting with testing. Pontones says this type of surveillance is critical to rule out other respiratory illnesses.
"The enterovirus D-68 being reported in other states is not treatable with anti-viral medication," Pontones says. "There is no vaccine for it and because it is a virus antibiotics are not effective."
The best prevention, according to Pontones, is to practice good hygiene. She recommends frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, disinfecting common areas, not sharing utensils or drinking cups, and staying home from work or school if you feel ill.