Over the past two weeks, you have likely noticed the media blast regarding patients in the Midwest infected with a virus called HEV-68. “HEV-68” stands for “Human Enteorvirus-68,” and this virus has infected over 1,000 patients in 10 states. HEV-68 was first identified in 1962, and there have been several outbreak clusters since that time. The virus is very similar to the rhinovirus, which causes the common cold. Most enteroviruses cause only mild illnesses, but HEV-68 appears to cause respiratory illness almost exclusively and disproportionately affects young children. Children under the age of five with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, are particularly at risk. Symptoms may be similar to the common cold at first, and in rare cases can rapidly progress to a severe respiratory illness requiring hospitalization and ventilatory support.
There is no vaccine or cure for HEV-68, and routine testing for this particular virus cannot be performed. It is important to remember that for most of us, infection with the virus will manifest only as a nasty cold. Common sense measures, such as hand washing, not touching your face, mouth, nose and eyes, covering coughs and sneezes, and sanitizing household surfaces can help to prevent infection withHEV-68 and other respiratory viruses. Keep ill children at home until they are better. Co-infection with the influenza virus could cause very severe illness, so it is important that you and your children get your flu vaccinations early. It can take up to two weeks to develop an immune response to the flu vaccine. Closely monitor children with underlying asthma for severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing or wheezing that does not respond to inhalers, and seek medical evaluation immediately if you are concerned.