Heads up parents, health officials say there is a serious respiratory virus spreading across New York State and, in rare cases, can cause acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).
The New York State Department of Health is warning parents and caregivers to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of enterovirus EV-D68, which has now been confirmed in 39 children in New York State, including here in Western New York.
An EV-D68 infection usually results in mild symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, cough, body aches and muscle aches. Severe symptoms include wheezing and difficulty breathing.
The DOH says in some rare instances, the virus can cause acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a serious condition that causes weakness in the arms and legs or even paralysis.
Infants, children and teens are more likely than adults to get infected EV-D68 since they have not had the chance to build an immunity from previous exposures to enteroviruses.
“All parents must take simple steps to protect their children, especially those who are immune-compromised or have respiratory problems, to avoid becoming infected," said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “We will continue to work with our partners at the CDC and local health departments to make sure that all New York families have the information they need to prevent their children and others from getting the virus.”
Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes. There is no specific treatment for EV-D68 infections other than management of symptoms, and no specific anti-viral medications are currently available for this purpose. The DOH says it is important to take steps to protect yourself and others from all respiratory infections, including:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
• Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
• Use the same precautions you would use to prevent the spread of influenza.
The DOH is working with the CDC and local health departments to track the virus.