Enteroviruses are very common viruses, and there are more than 100 different types. They are estimated to cause about 10 to 15 million infections in the United States each year, and many people are hospitalized annually for illnesses the viruses cause. While many people infected with enteroviruses have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, some infections can be serious. Anyone can get infected with enteroviruses but infants, children, and teenagers are more likely to get infected and become sick. That's because they do not yet have immunity from previous exposures to the viruses.
Enterovirus infections typically occur in the summer and fall, and while there may be multiple types circulating at the same time, the one that has received significant media coverage recently is one called enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). EV-D68 was first identified in California in 1962, and the reasons it has been in the news so much lately are largely due to the fact that it is a less common type of the virus, and some hospitals in states across the country have seen more children than usual with severe respiratory illness associated with it.
EV-D68 behaves like a cold virus (rhinovirus). Like other enteroviruses, EV-D68 spreads through close contact with infected people, most likely when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or when an uninfected person touches contaminated surfaces. You can help protect yourself from respiratory illnesses by following these steps:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after coming in contact with respiratory secretions or when changing diapers (enteroviruses also infect the bowel).
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
Massachusetts recently had its first confirmed case of EV-D68. And the Department, in close coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other state and local public health and hospital authorities, continues to monitor the situation, just as we do for any other upticks in a particular illness or disease. DPH has issued a clinical advisory for Massachusetts clinicians and clinical laboratory directors, and is committed to working with our local public health and healthcare partners so that our healthcare system is prepared to effectively respond to and meet the needs of this situation.
DPH Guidance for Clinicians
Information for Parents
- Keep Your Child from Getting and Spreading Enterovirus D68 (CDC)
- Keep Your Child from Getting and Spreading Enterovirus D68 - Spanish (CDC)
More information about Enterovirus D68 is available at the CDC website.