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Enterovirus D68 or flu? How do you know what your child has? Flu Question of the Week

image 2Flu season is typically peaking in the winter months – December, January, February – but the season is officially under way now — although cases are sporadic.

Enteroviruses are not that uncommon, but the strain going around this year – D68 – is a relatively unusual one and has received some media attention this year as it has been attributed to a handful of deaths in other states. It’s cold-like symptoms aren’t always severe, but sometimes they can be, thus the alarm. It’s not known how many enterovirus D68 cases have occurred in Alabama, according to the state health department, but more than 40 cases have been sent off for testing. Nationally more than 1,100 people have tested positive for the virus in 47 states.

We bring in our expert,  Dr. Catherine Hough-Telford, a fellow in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases,  to discuss the differences in these viruses.

“Typically, symptoms of the flu start with sudden onset of fever, fatigue, chills, muscle aches and pains, headaches, and dry cough. It then progresses to sore throat, congestion, runny nose, and cough. Symptoms usually last for 3-7 days,” Hough-Telford said. “To prevent you or your child from getting the flu, get the flu vaccine annually.”

Enteroviruses are a group of viruses that include enterovirus D68, she  said.

“Infections caused by enteroviruses are typically seen between June and October. As we move toward the winter months, we expect to continue to see a decline in the number of cases of enterovirus.

“Symptoms of enteroviral infection can include fever, sore throat, cough, rash, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, muscle aches, and eye redness. This year, the type of enteroviral infection that has been common in the US is enterovirus D68. It has caused children to have fever, runny nose, body aches, and cough. In some severe cases, children have had difficulty breathing, wheezing,  and asthma-like symptoms.”

She points out there is no vaccine against enteroviral infections.

Preventing the spread of either the flu or enterovirus are the same: Good hand washing, cleaning surfaces, covering  your mouth when you cough or sneeze, avoiding touching your hands or face with unwashed hands, and staying away from sick individuals or staying home when you aresick.

“If you are concerned that your child has either flu or enterovirus, it is best to see your physician for further evaluation and treatment recommendations,” Hough-Telford said.


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