Children in New York State and across the country have recently been diagnosed with a respiratory virus, known as enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68), which continues to result in hospitalizations and panic.
According to an NBC report, there have been 443 cases of the illness, which is also commonly linked with asthma, in 40 states so far. The virus spreads through aerosols, making it an airborne illness.
“In this virus, we have a lot of children getting the virus,” Dr. Sharon Nachman, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Stony Brook University and an expert in pediatric infectious disease, said. “We have a proportionate amount getting respiratory illness, particularly those who have underlying asthma.”
There is currently no known treatment for the illness; however, supportive treatments are critical to recovery, Nachman said.
“Someone who gets this virus will need to manage their asthma well,” Nachman said. “If they’re on medication for asthma they have to be on the right medication and they have to take it on time. If they don’t have asthma, but they’re prescribed medications they should take those medications.”
Symptoms can range anywhere from a “simple respiratory infection” to “being hospitalized and being put into ICU,’” Nachman said. A full description of illnesses associated with the virus are not well-known, but common symptoms include fever, sneezing and coughing. All associated illnesses are contagious through aerosols.
“New Yorkers must take precautions to protect children, especially those who are immune-compromised or have asthma and other respiratory problems, from getting the virus,” Dr. Howard Zucker, the New York State Commissioner of Health, said in a recent report. “We will continue to work with our partners at the Centers for Disease Control and local health departments to ensure that all New Yorkers have the information they need to prevent infection.”
The best protection residents can take against EV-D68 is to avoid close contact with the sick and continually wash their hands and disinfect frequently used surfaces. Currently, the virus does not pose a direct threat to Stony Brook University. However, it is believed that the virus has shown up at the Stony Brook University Hospital.
“Since the incident, we’re not sending every single kid who comes in with a respiratory infection in for viral testing,” Nachman said. “Because we don’t have an antiviral, we’re not actively pursuing it. We’re assuming that some of these kids that are hospitalized do have it, and we’re treating it appropriately. We’re just not labeling them.”
Although it is probable that patients will be hospitalized for the illness at Stony Brook University Hospital, it is highly unlikely that Stony Brook students are at risk of acquiring this specific virus.
“We haven’t seen large amounts of college ages students being hospitalized with it, but college aged students are still at risk for a whole host of other viruses because of their living conditions,” Nachman said. “Kids that are living in dorms are at risk for lots of viruses simply because of how they live and gather. Thinking about not keeping in close quarters with somebody who’s sick will help.”
In order for college students to best protect themselves from contagious illnesses, Nachman recommends taking precautions like not sharing food, drinks and personal items, regularly washing their hands and avoiding sick peers coughing and sneezing in their personal space.