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Asthma Control Important As Enterovirus D68 Clusters Emerge, CDC Says

Cheryl A. Thompson

The federal investigation into two clusters of severe respiratory illness from enterovirus D68 infection is still at an early stage, an official said today, but more than half of the children have something in common: asthma or a history of wheezing.

"Keeping asthma in good control can keep you in better form if you come in contact with one of these respiratory viruses," said Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

She said no other conditions as yet have been found more frequently in the children in the two clusters of enterovirus D68 infection than in the general population.

The clusters were reported to CDC in the latter half of August by children's hospitals in Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago, according to an "early release" articleExternal Link in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

All but 1 of the 30 children, who ranged in age from 6 weeks to 16 years, were admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit. Eight of them required some type of mechanical ventilation.

"If children have asthma, you want to make sure they're well controlled, that they're taking their medicines regularly, seeing their health care professionals regularly," Schuchat said during a media briefing.

Other preventive measures, she said, are based on the agency's suspicion that enterovirus D68 spreads in ways similar to how other enteroviruses spread—"through respiratory secretions like saliva and mucus."

CDC's tips for preventing respiratory illnessesExternal Link, such as those from infection with enterovirus D68, are to

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds,
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands,
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill, and
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

"There is no specific treatment" for enterovirus D68 infection, Schuchat said, and most enterovirus-infected people show only mild symptoms or none at all.

However, she noted, people with severe respiratory illness from the infection may need admission to a hospital so they can receive supportive care.

Schuchat said about a dozen states have contacted CDC for support during their investigations of possible clusters of severe respiratory illness from enterovirus D68 infection.

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