The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has announced the state’s first confirmed case of enterovirus D68. The patient, a school-aged child with a history of asthma who became ill in early September, was treated at an area hospital and is now back at home.
Enterovirus D68 is a rare virus related to the common cold and usually has similar symptoms—coughing, a runny nose, and a mild fever. The current outbreak began in mid-August, and has so far spread to 30 states. “Previously affected areas of the country have seen many hospitalizations as a result of this virus, primarily in children and in those with asthma or other underlying respiratory conditions,” says MIT Medical’s associate medical director Howard Heller, M.D., an infectious disease specialist. “Those individuals are at highest risk of complications.”
Heller urges members of the MIT community to follow the same strategies they would ordinarily use to protect themselves and others during cold-and-flu season:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Cover coughs and sneezes with your arm or a tissue
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home if you are feeling sick.
“Patients with chronic medical problems, especially asthma, should seek medical care if they develop respiratory infections,” he adds. “And parents should be especially alert to signs of illness in children with asthma or other underlying respiratory problems.”
MIT Medical continues to monitor for enterovirus 68 infections on campus as well as the appearance of other respiratory viral infections, Heller notes. “This is cold-and-flu season,” he adds. “We all need to do what we can to protect ourselves and others. This includes getting a flu shot at one of the upcoming walk-in clinics on campus and at Lincoln Laboratory.”
Information on enterovirusD68 is available on the CDC website. MIT Medical will provide further updates as needed.