As enterovirus D-68 (EV-D68) continues to spread across the country, including in New Jersey, many parents are wondering why so many young children are getting sick from it now.

Braden Gunem, Thinkstock
Braden Gunem, Thinkstock

The virus has actually been around for years and is very common this time of year, but the EV-D68 strain is one that is fairly unusual, according to health officials.

"Of the more than 100 enterovirus strains that are around - this particular one, EV-D68, is hitting the country for unknown reasons," said Dr. Edward Lifshitz, medical director of the Communicable Disease Service at the New Jersey Department of Health. "There is nothing different this year that we know of that is causing it."

An enterovirus infection is very much like the common cold. It causes mild symptoms including fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, body and muscle aches. In fact, many people who get EV-D68 do not even know that they have it.

"What makes it somewhat different is that in some people, the symptoms are more severe and include wheezing and difficulty breathing," Lifshitz said. "The best thing people can do is try to avoid getting sick in the first place. If they do get sick, treat it like a common cold, but be aware of any worsening symptoms especially if there is any trouble breathing. If that happens, seek medical attention immediately."

Lifshitz recommends people wash their hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds. Unfortunately, with enterovirus, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and wipes generally do not work.

On Sept. 25, 4-year-old Eli Waller died from EV-D68.  He was a preschool student at Yardville Elementary School in Hamilton Township.  His family said he exhibited no symptoms when he was put to bed. Local health officials still don't know how Eli contracted the virus.

His family has created a foundation  in his memory to help special needs families pay for tuition, school supplies and other items for their kids. To donate to The First Day of School Foundation, click here.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 14 cases on EV-D68 in New Jersey as of Oct. 10. Nationally, there have been over 664 people diagnosed with the virus this year, and five children have died while infected with the virus, according to the CDC.





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