Doctors prep for enterovirus D68 in New Orleans

AP Photo
AP Photo

On Wednesday, doctors prepared to see the rare strain of enterovirus known as D68 after two children were confirmed to be infected with the virus in Baton Rouge.

By Wednesday, the CDC had confirmed 130 cases across 12 states.

"If you have a fragile child, be extra cautious right now," said Dr. John Heaton, the chief medical officer at Children's Hospital in New Orleans.

Children with heart disease, asthma, or other underlying lung diseases are extra susceptible to the virus, and some suspect the virus may already be in New Orleans.

"We have seen an increase of patients wheezing with upper respiratory tract infections. So, I think that the disease is probably under reported a bit at this point or under identified," said Heaton.

D68 is a rare strain of a common virus that has spread quickly among children many times before.

"This is not a new phenomenon. I think the last pretty bad one world wide was 2008 to 2010. So it's something we're fully prepared for," said Heaton.

Heaton said that's likely why adults aren't getting infected by this strain. They've built up immunity after getting sick with a similar, common cold-like viruses growing up.

However, as this one has the potential to cause a nasty respiratory illness for those who are more vulnerable, Heaton said prevention is key.

"This is an episodic illness that we don't have a vaccine for, we don't have a treatment for. We do have good supportive measures for it, but it's best not to get it in the first place," said Heaton.

Dr. Heaton said though it can be serious, there's no cause for panic.

"This is not Ebola," said Heaton. "Even the children who get very ill, the vast majority of them recover fully."

Heaton stressed being cautious by taking extra preventative measures for at least the next month.

He said especially be mindful of hand washing and keeping your child home from school if they are sick - just as if they had the flu.

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