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Protect yourself from enteroviruses

Public service announcement from Three Rivers District Health Dept.

Cold and flu season is here and Three Rivers District Health Department wants local residents to protect themselves. There has been much concern in the community with the report of multi-state clusters of children with severe respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D68.

Enteroviruses are very common viruses; more than 100 types are known. Most people with enterovirus infections experience minimal to mild symptoms, but some cases can be serious.

Enterovirus D68 infections occur less commonly than those with other enteroviruses.  It is not uncommon to be seen by one’s physician with complaints of runny nose, sneezing, cough, and congestion and have the physician give a diagnosis of enterovirus (the common cold). He or she may order decongestants, rest, and plenty of fluids. The patient goes on his or her way. In a week or two, feels better, and all is back to normal.

In the above case, diagnostic testing was not necessary, and that is the case with most enterovirus illness. If a child is sick enough to be hospitalized for respiratory illness, then further testing may be done in order to diagnose the particular type of enterovirus, if any that the child may have. Testing for Enterovirus D68 is not done as a routine test in a doctor’s office or clinic.

If a child has a history of respiratory illness in the past or has asthma, they may be at higher risk for being susceptible to enteroviruses like D68. Children with cold like symptoms that experience difficulty breathing should consult with their family physician for further evaluation. Severe wheezing (high pitched whistling sound during breathing) is considered to be an emergency and medical attention should be sought immediately.

Good health habits and simple hygiene practices can go a long way toward preventing the spread of enteroviruses and other illnesses.

  • Wash your hands often to help protect you from germs. Soap and water is best practice. Alcohol sanitizers are not effective against enteroviruses
  • Bleach is preferred for disinfecting surfaces.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, if possible.
  • Keep your distance from others when you are sick, to protect them from becoming infected.
  • Stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick, if possible, to help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Cough and sneeze into an elbow instead of hands to help prevent the spread of germs to others.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose or mouth.  Germs are often spread when you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • It is important to maintain good hygiene for diaper changing and toileting as some enteroviruses may be passed in stool.

For more information on enteroviruses and how to help prevent the spread of infectious disease, contact Sara Bourek, RN/Community Health Education Manager/Disease Surveillance at Three Rivers District Health Department at 402-727-5396, ext. 4, or visit www.threeriverspublichealth.org.

Protect yourself from enteroviruses

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