This is the time of year parents start scanning their facebook feeds and other sources of information for what to expect our children to get sick with, how badly, and when. For a couple of years in a row, a few years ago, we were getting hit with a norovirus, causing diarrhea, vomiting, and a lot of lost daycare or school days. This year we are seeing reports of an outbreak of the scary-sounding “Enterovirus EV-D68.” Hundreds of kids are sick enough to get treatment in several states, currently Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia and Kentucky. (By the time you read this more will probably be added to that list.)
This virus is part of a large family of viruses that includes a lot of diseases, some pretty benign and some more serious. But the best common name for this particular virus, the one that includes this type of virus as well as several others, is the dreaded “Common Cold.”
This is probably a bit worse than the regular common cold for some people, indicated by the number of hospitalizations, some of which include pretty serious cases. The peak season for this type of virus is September, though it is sometimes called a “summer cold” because it starts to spread earlier in they year. It also seems like this particular virus is spreading quickly and hitting communities with large percentages. But, it is not clear how different than usual this is. CNN quotes Dr. Mary Jackson, an infectious disease expert, “It’s worse in terms of scope of critically ill children who require intensive care. I would call it unprecedented. I’ve practiced for 30 years in pediatrics, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this.” She is based at a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, where about 15% of the patients who came in have been placed in intensive care, of about 475 treated as of a couple of days ago.
So there are two things you need to know. First, this is probably a normal cold spreading more widely and quickly than other years. Second, there is probably a higher incidence of more serious infections with this cold, so be more vigilant and go ahead and set your parental trigger for calling in your child’s sickness to a more sensitive level.
Image above from here.
And, there are a few things you need to do. First, update your kid’s “cover your mouth when you cough” training. Second, update your kid’s “wash your hands a lot” training. Third, keep your kid home when sick to the extent that you can.
Just to be clear. EV-D68 is not common. When I say it is a version of the “common cold” I mean that it is one of many viruses, a diverse group, that are on the list of things that cause what we call “a cold.” The specific enterovirus EV-D68 might be pretty rare, which may be why reactions to it can be worse. There is a very small number, up until now, of confirmed cases of it world wide, but only a tiny percentage of instances of the common cold are ever tested to see what the exact cause is.
This is the time of year kids (and teachers) go back to school to learn new things and exchange pathogens. Expect a lot more of this over coming weeks.
Personally, I think everyone in the whole world should stock up of food and water and quarantine themselves form all other humans for 14 days. Inside, with a good mosquito net. Imagine how many human-reservoir or insect-human reservoir disease would go extinct!?!? Of course, then no one would have a well developed immune system after a while and we would all die but for a while it would be great!