D68: new virus sneaks up on students with flu-like symptoms
As this part of the world approaches the fall season, temperatures will finally be dropping and the flu season is soon to officially begin. The usual flu is always expected, but there is a new twin virus on the block.
The viral infection disguised as its doppleganger is the non-polio enterovirus D68, (EV-D68) having symptoms similar to the flu and common cold. Some serious cases have arisen and lead to respiratory problems, chest pains, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and even partial paralysis in rare cases.
Enteroviruses (EV) are very common, causing around 10-15 million infections in the United States per year according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP). Reports of the EV-like illnesses have spiked in California as of the second week of October according to a report from the CDCP. In the same report, cases of the illness increased on the east coast, with a significant quantity in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The CDCP also indicates that people are more likely to become infected with non-polio enteroviruses during the summer and fall.
The disease mainly effects infants, young children and teenagers, particularly persons with asthma (due to its impact on the respiratory system) and weakened immune systems (due to low immunity protection). The illness has heavily affected middle schools and sent many children to the Intensive Care Unit.There have been about 600 confirmed cases of EV-D68 in the United States, with five confirmed deaths from people infected.
According to the CDCP, EV-D68 can be spread like any other cold. Sneezing, coughing, and direct contact with an infected person are the most common ways of contracting the illness. There is currently no specific treatment for the illness, however the best form of prevention is washing hands and maintaining good personal hygiene.
Cases of EV-D68 in California have risen over the past month from 14 cases in the beginning of the October to 32 reported cases as of now. Cases have been reported from San Diego all the way to San Francisco. The closest reports in Southern California have been in the Long Beach area, however there have been no reported cases of EV-D68 in Santa Monica as of October.
Middle schools around the Los Angeles area have not been specifically checking for EV-D68. The reasoning is because the symptoms are so similar to other common sicknesses that it is difficult to diagnose a student with the illness. According to a Culver City Middle School nurse, Diana Castro, there have been no cases of the EV-D68 around the area. Castro mentions, "The virus is not a huge concern for us right now, we are mainly dealing with students infected with more frequent sicknesses."
Even though this new virus is popping up in middle schools around the country, many medical websites believe that the virus will soon die out by the end of the year.
Students are still worrying about the basic flue and common cold, however. According to Webmd.com, between 5-20 percent of Americans will become infected with the flu each winter season. With such a high probability of catching a cold, education for prevention and best ways to combat symptoms are essential.
"Sleep is very important for someone to recover. Your body also needs lots of fluids. The best cure for the flu is avoiding the flu," said Castro.
Vaccinations can be the first step to the preventing both the common cold and the flu. According to the SMC website, the school nurses office offers flu vaccinations for $12. Students must bring a school ID for proof, must have all health fees paid, and will only accept cash payments.