WESTCHESTER, NY -- The first case of case of EV-D68 virus in Westchester has been confirmed by the New York State Health Department. The case involves a child who lives in a long-term care facility in the county, has multiple and significant underlying medical conditions and is currently hospitalized outside Westchester. For privacy reasons, the state has not made other information available about the child.
“Isolated reports of children who are confirmed to have had EV-D68 are not surprising,” said Sherlita Amler, MD, Commissioner of Health. “This virus was identified in the 1960s and is one of the causes of the common cold, so it’s to be expected that with increased testing, it would be identified throughout New York.”
The New York State Health Department has said that enterovirus EV-D68 is present statewide. In response, the Westchester County Health Department is sharing preventive advice to help families stay healthy during flu season and beyond.
“What’s important for families to know is that most people who are diagnosed with this virus experience only minor symptoms similar to the common cold, but children with asthma, wheezing or underlying medical conditions are at risk for more serious complications,” Dr. Amler said. “To protect these vulnerable children from this and other viruses, parents should faithfully follow their child’s asthma management plan and regimen. And I strongly encourage flu shots for everyone six months and older.”
While there is no vaccine for EV-D68, annual flu vaccines provide protection from influenza, a far more common virus that sickens thousands of U.S. children and adults each year. The health department plans to schedule flu clinics this fall. For more information, call 914-995-7425.
Enterovirus EV-D68 is most likely to cause the same symptoms as the common cold. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends that physicians only consider testing for patients with severe respiratory illness and when the cause is unclear. Neither doctors nor hospitals are required to report individual EV-D68 cases to the county health department, so there is no data on this specific virus for the health department to track. However, the county health department is monitoring hospital visits and admissions for signs of any increase in respiratory-related illnesses, and so far, has observed none. The county health department is also reminding school districts to report any unusual rates of absenteeism or respiratory illness and has sent guidance to school districts and posted it at www.westchestergov.com/health.
Here’s what parents need to know:
As with most viruses, most people infected with enterovirus EV-D68 do not have symptoms or have only mild symptoms such as fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing and body aches. These mild symptoms are best treated with rest, plenty of fluids and over-the-counter pain medication, the same as with the common cold.
People with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of becoming more severely ill or developing complications when infected with this virus, the flu, and most other infections.
“For all of us, washing hands thoroughly and frequently is the most effective way to avoid getting sick or spreading illnesses,” Amler said. “Viruses spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing or touching surfaces. Teach your children to wash their hands as long as it takes them to sing the Happy Birthday song twice. Remind children to cover their coughs and to wash hands thoroughly after they sneeze.”
Amler also advised parents to keep children home when they have a fever, along with a runny nose, sneezing and coughing or body aches.
“To help prevent viruses from cycling back and forth between home and school, keep your children home when they are sick and send them back to school when they have recovered,” she said. “Of course, if a child has trouble breathing, call 911.”
Follow these tips to avoid spreading illness in your family:
- Keep children home when they have a fever and a runny nose, sneezing, coughing or body aches.
- For mild respiratory illness, you can help relieve symptoms with over-the-counter medications for pain and fever. Aspirin should not be given to children. There are no antiviral medications or a vaccine for this illness.
- Teach children to cough into their elbow and to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds before they eat and after they blow their nose or use the toilet.
- Anyone caring for a sick child should wash hands thoroughly after having contact with the child to avoid spreading germs.
- Avoid sharing cups or eating utensils.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, often, using a solution of one tablespoon of bleach to a gallon of water.
- If you haven’t already, schedule flu shots for you and your family, including all children ages six months and older.
- If you have further questions, call your physician.