U.S. Ebola scares pull focus from Enterovirus D68
Currently, the United States is in a state of panic surrounding the Ebola virus. Although Ebola is a very serious virus, and West Africa is currently experiencing the largest epidemic to date, Ebola has only been confirmed in one U.S. state, yet the people of the nation are ready to zip up their quarantine suits.
However, there is an epidemic of a different virus moving across the U.S. that is not gaining near as much attention but is covering ground much quicker than the Ebola virus. Under the guise of common cold symptoms, an extremely rare respiratory disease known as Enterovirus D68 has been infecting children across the country.
Beginning in the Midwest, EV-D68 was confirmed in only 11 states a few weeks ago. Now, from mid-August to Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms a total of 594 people in 43 states and the District of Columbia have been infected with EV-D68.
The virus — closely related to rhinovirus, the cause of the common cold — may also cause wheezing, which is in some cases so extreme it causes children to be admitted into the Intensive Care Unit. It has been around for years but never had the large impact it has now.
“When your baby can’t breathe, it’s a scary feeling, because there’s nothing you can do to help her,” said Erin Schons, the mother of a 16-month-old girl who has experienced previous respiratory problems, to ABC News 9.
Parents should listen closely to what their children are complaining about and look for any unfamiliar behavior, especially if the child has a history of asthma. The virus should be a real concern to parents, as EV-D68 has been detected in specimens from four patients who died.
Officials are still trying to figure how EV-D68 made its way to the U.S. Due to the limited information and little relevance the virus has had over the past few years, there is still research being done to find out more.
Kare 11 reported that because there is no vaccine, “the best way to avoid the virus is prevention.”
The best prevention methods for this virus as well as others is to disinfect everything one and one’s child come in contact with. It is important to wash hands thoroughly, stay away from close interaction with sick people and drink plenty of fluids.
EV-D68 does not yet have a cure. There are medications that can be taken to help with the symptoms, but nothing yet has been discovered to prevent this illness.
The virus is more likely to affect children that may have previously had respiratory issues, making asthmatic children more prone to catching the illness. However, the virus is a threat to infants, children and teenagers as well.
While it’s not to say that one virus is more dangerous than the other, it is safe to say that individuals need to take similar precautions to ensure that viruses don’t spread.
“People should try to avoid viruses,” said physics freshman Manuel Gutierrez. “It is possible by just simply getting vaccinations and not directly touching public doors.”
UH does provide students with vaccinations at the Health Center. The UH Wellness Center provides student with information about all different types of viruses. The Wellness Center also helps students identify the different types of symptoms they should look out for.
Student Housing and Residential Life Coordinator Rosemary Aleman said that students should take precautions to prevent viruses.
“Students should carry Germ-X and sanitation wipes to eliminate the spread of viruses,” Aleman said. “There has to be a conscious effort from students to try and avoid viruses by wiping down their desk, computer keyboards and avoid direct contact with door knobs.”
This recent spread of the Ebola virus and EV-D68 shows how important it is to continue to disinfect everything. Cold and flu season is here, and students should try their best to use all types of prevention. EV-D68 is not going to be the first rare virus to spread — outbreaks can be prevented if precaution is taken.
The CDC reported that enteroviruses typically circulate in the summer and fall, so the infections are likely to decline later in the way. However, the semester is officially in full swing and it is vital students take care of themselves while we are in the middle of enterovirus season.
Opinion columnist Faith Alford is a journalism sophomore and opinion editor Kelly Schafler is a print journalism junior and they may be reached at [email protected].