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What you need to know about Enterovirus D68

TORONTO – An outbreak of enterovirus D68, a respiratory illness, may have made its way into Ontario with suspected cases in both Windsor and Oakville.

Enteroviruses are a group of viruses comprised of more than 100 strains but only some, like enterovirus D68, affect the respiratory system.

“EV-D68 in particular seems to cause respiratory symptoms and seems to be more severe in kids who have asthma,” Global News medical contributor Dr. Samir Gupta said.

READ MORE: Where is Enterovirus D68 in Canada? 

But what’s causing the outbreak? It’s hard to tell if it’s just an increase in cases, or also a more potent strain of the virus, Gupta said, because enterovirus D68 isn’t commonly tested for.

The number of infections with enterovirus D68 however, do tend to spike in September along with a host of other viruses when kids go back to school.

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Five things you need to know about enterovirus D68:

1. Symptoms mirror those of the common cold

Enterovirus D68 infections are more common among children and typically look like the common cold including a runny nose, fever and a cough.

However, severe infections can lead to trouble breathing and wheezing.

2. Symptoms are worse for asthmatics

Children with asthma are far more likely to suffer from severe symptoms like trouble breathing and wheezing when infected with enterovirus D68.

3. When should you seek help?

Symptoms can look a lot like those of the common cold – but if fever doesn’t go away after a few days, it might be time to seek medical treatment.

Dr. Gupta suggests going to a doctor if the person is struggling to breathe, dehydrated, or lethargic.

4. How can it be prevented?

Enterovirus D68 is spread much like influenza – direct contact with a contaminated surface or indirect contact with the virus through sneezing and coughing.

Dr. Gupta suggests frequent handwashing, disinfecting surfaces that come into contact with the virus like toys, cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, not sharing cups or utensils, and keeping sick children home from school.

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5. How do you treat enteroviruses?

Unfortunately there are no vaccines or medications for enterovirus – eventually people recover on their own.

Hospitals generally treat infected people with plenty of fluids and oxygen if necessary.  Children with asthma should be diligent about taking their regular anti-inflammatory puffer, as it may reduce the severity of an asthma flare from enterovirus infection.