First, Viruses are distinct from bacteria, as viruses are smaller (electron microscope is often necessary for viewing) and viruses are not actual living things (bacteria are).
Furthermore, viruses must take over a living cell in order to reproduce. Virologists quoted in the Scientific American article, “Are Viruses Alive” explain “that with their dependence on host cells, viruses lead ‘a kind of borrowed life.’” These viruses existing on borrowed lives have one objective: to infect and thereby reproduce and multiply.
The Enterovirus D68 – Symptoms
In the case of the Enterovirus D68, infection results in coughing, sneezing, fever, runny nose, and body aches, are basically the same symptoms as a common cold. “In general, infants, children, and teenagers are most likely to get infected with enteroviruses…” (CDC, 2014), and children with asthma are at exceptional risk. In protecting children, prevention is a vital measure as researchers have not developed antiviral medications or vaccines against the Enterovirus D68, and antibiotics are ineffective.
Use Disinfectants and Hand-washing to Prevent Spread
“Antibiotic literally means life-killing” (Vocabulary.com), but with viruses there is nothing for the antibiotic to kill. Dr. Howard Zucker (New York acting State Health Commissioner) emphasizes that “there is no specific treatment or vaccination against this virus (Enterovirus D68), our best defense is to prevent it by practicing proper hygiene” (Jacque Wilson, 2014).
Remember the viruses are looking for a way to get inside a body and hijack living cells; the general principle is to keep them out. In the case of Enterovirus D68, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) explains that the virus “likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches contaminated surfaces” and lists the following protective measures (CDC, 2014):
- Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers
- Avoid touching 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
Since people with asthma are higher risk for respiratory illnesses, they should regularly take medicines and maintain control of their illness during this time. They should also take advantage of influenza vaccine (flu shot) since people with asthma have a difficult time with respiratory illnesses.
Children Most Susceptible to Enterovirus D68
Children are the most vulnerable to infection, and those with asthma have an increased risk. In determining the severity of your child’s illness, consider the following guidelines.
Take measures to provide comfort for the symptoms of the illness.
If your child is having difficulty breathing, has shortness of breath or is wheezing consult a health care provider. A compromised airway can be a medical emergency. “if your children have symptoms, particularly with the breathing troubles, then you need to think, ‘Hmmm, maybe I better get that looked at sooner rather than later’” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2014).
If your child has asthma, ensure that he/she is taking prescribed medications as directed, and contact your health care provider to formulate an “action plan” to use if your child develops worsening symptoms, also patient education provided by the health care provider may prove valuable.
Inform caregivers, teachers, and others responsible for child care of the action plan for child’s care (CDC, 2014).
About the Author
Marian Henderson is currently a Graduate RN. She has volunteered at a long-term care facility and received 196 clinical hours of RN training; in addition she has a technical diploma in Health Information Technology from the American Business and Technology University. She loves sharing helpful information and tips for new nurses.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (2014, September 16). Enterovirus D68: 8 things parents should know. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from CBC News/Health: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/enterovirus-d68-8-things-parents-should-know-1.2766944
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, September 12). Enterovirus D68. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/about/ev-d68.html
Jacque Wilson. (2014, September 13). Enterovirus D68 sickens more than a dozen in New York. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/12/health/enterovirus-new-york/
Microbe World. (2006). Virus or Bacterium? Retrieved from Microbe World: http://archives.microbeworld.org/microbes/virus_bacterium.aspx
Villarreal, L. P. (2008, August 8). Are Viruses Alive? Retrieved September 15, 2014, from Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-viruses-alive-2004/