St. Luke’s Hospital sees suspected case of Enterovirus 68

Published 10:00 pm Monday, September 15, 2014

By Claire Sachse

At 5 p.m. Thursday, an infection preventionist at St. Luke’s Hospital confirmed that a child was sent from their emergency room to Mission Hospital in Asheville with a suspected, but not confirmed, case of Enterovirus D68.

The EV-D68 virus has been in the news this week because of its rapid spread and the large number of children who have been sickened and hospitalized.

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Megan Parker, St. Luke’s infection preventionist, said that she is surprised at how quickly the virus has been spreading nationwide.

“From the onset, it looks like asthma, and the person has vague upper respiratory problems. But it progresses rapidly until the patient is on a respirator or ventilator,” she said.

“The virus has been around for a while, but not this huge an outbreak,” Parker said.

The virus causes labored breathing and wheezing, and the respiratory distress is more severe than an asthma attack, according to Parker. Some patients may experience a fever.

The staff of the ER has been given case identifier forms, said Parker. If is case of EV-D68 is suspected, the patient will be sent to either Mission Hospital or to Spartanburg for treatment.

Caregivers should wear gowns, masks and eye protection, said Parker. Hand hygiene is important, she added, and people should refrain from touching their faces. Cough droplets can contain the virus so it is important to wash hands and surfaces frequently.

In a Sept. 9 memo from Megan Davies, MD, state epidemiologist, to all North Carolina health care providers, Davies said that as of that date there had been no confirmed cases of the virus in the state.

“Many infections will be mild and self-limited, requiring only symptomatic treatment. Patients with asthma exacerbations or other more severe manifestations may require hospitalization for supportive therapy. Vaccines for preventing EV-D68 infections are not currently available,” she wrote.

Public health recommendations to help reduce the risk of EV-D68 and other respiratory viruses.

υWash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.

υAvoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

υAvoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.

υDisinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.

υStay home when feeling sick, and obtain consultation from your health care provider.