To the Editor:
The Oklahoma State Department of Health has received confirmation that enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is circulating and causing respiratory illness in Oklahoma. Although enteroviruses are a common cause of respiratory illness, EV-D68 is a relatively rare type of enterovirus in the U. S. EV-D68 has been confirmed in 11 other states, including Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado.
The CDC has reported seven of 24 specimens submitted from Oklahoma hospitals and labs tested positive for the virus which has been associated with an increase in pediatric admissions at hospitals in the central region of the state. EV-D68 looks very similar to the common cold with cough, runny nose, body aches, and possibly a fever. However, in some children the illness can rapidly progress to something more serious where the child has wheezing, difficulty breathing, and difficulty getting enough oxygen into their lungs.
Medical providers are not required to report suspected cases to public health authorities so the number of actual cases in the state cannot be tracked. Officials are monitoring the trend of hospital admissions for acute respiratory illness, and requesting that any outbreaks of respiratory disease in day cares or schools be reported to the OSDH. There are no specific treatments or vaccines to prevent EV-D68 infections.
People can protect themselves by:
- Washing hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoiding close contact and sharing cups and eating utensils with people who are sick.
- Disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as toys, doorknobs and light switches, especially if someone is sick.
- Staying home when sick.
Find more information about enteroviruses at www.health.ok.gov or www.cdc.gov.
—Oklahoma State Health Department