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Enterovirus D68 Case Confirmed In Escambia County Child

Centers for Disease Control

An 8-year old boy who lives in Escambia County is the first confirmed case in the area of an unusual respiratory illness.  And he's probably not the only case. The illness is caused by the Enterovirus, which is one of the many strains of virus that cause the common cold.

Dr. John Lanza, the Director of the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County says that local emergency rooms saw a flurry of visits from patients with resiratory illness about 5 weeks ago. That flurry of ER visits led to patients being screened to see the cause of the problems. The samples from this Escambia County child were included and were confirmed as being caused by Enterovirus D68. And given that there were many ER visits with respiratory problems at the same time, Dr. Lanza suspects this is just the first of many cases of the virus in the area.

So what exactly is the Enterovirus and how does it make us sick? According to Dr. Lanza it's basically an uncommon common cold. And as with any cold symptoms can range from mild to severe. Lanza says that this particular virus was discovered in California in 1962, and pops up from time to time in clusters. This year's cluster of cases have been more severe. Dr. Lanza also says that after that flurry of cases of respiratory illness last month, the number of cases being reported now have returned to the levels you'd expect to see this time of year.

As for prevention of the illness, unlike the flu there is no vaccine for the Enterovirus, or any other cold virus for that matter. Dr. Lanza says preventing the illness means using common sense hygiene and precautions including washing hands often with soap and water. And in the case of the Enterovirus that is especially important because unlike the flu virus and other cold germs, alcohol based hand sanitizers do not work on the Enterovirus. People should cover their coughs and sneezes, avoid touching their face with unwashed hands and stay home if they are sick. they should also keep their children or grandchildren home from school if they are ill.

Dr. Lanza also reminds everyone over 6 months of age to get the flu vaccine especially pregnant women.
Lanza says last year was an especially tough year for pregnant women and the flu, with many deaths of both woman and child reported across the country. This year his office will be running campaigns during the flu season specifically aimed at vaccinating pregnant women.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.