Florida’s first case of enterovirus D68 was confirmed Tuesday by the Florida Department of Health.
However, EV-D68 is not new. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus was originally isolated in California in 1962 and is rarely reported in the United States.
Only 79 cases of EV-D68 were reported between 2009 and 2013, but the CDC and state public health laboratories have confirmed 664 people in 45 states and the District of Columbia have been confirmed with a respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 from mid-August to Oct. 8. Admissions for severe respiratory illnesses have continued at rates higher than expected for this time of year, according to the CDC.
While most cases of EV-D68 cause respiratory illnesses, the full spectrum of the disease is still unclear since a limited number of laboratories in the United States are able to identify the virus. Although those detections are voluntarily reported to the National Enterovirus Surveillance System, the participating laboratories are encouraged to submit monthly summaries including the virus type, specimen type and collection date.
According to the Florida Department of Health, EV-D68 is highly contagious and spreads through cough and sneeze droplets or when someone touches contaminated surfaces like a counter-top or doorknob. Hand-washing with soap and water is recommended since alcohol-based sanitizers have not been effective against EV-D68.
Rasheeta Turner, communications specialist for the Florida Department of Health, said kids and teens are most likely to contract the virus, but adults and older children are still able to contract it as well. Children who have a history of asthma or respiratory diseases are at a higher risk.
Florida is the 44th state to have a confirmed case of EV-D68 this year. Its first case was documented after a 10-year-old girl was treated at Tampa General Hospital in early September.
John Dunn, spokesman for Tampa General Hospital, said the 10-year-old girl was transferred from an unnamed hospital to Tampa General Hospital where she stayed to receive treatment for six days. Vaccines or specific treatments are not available for EV-D68, and clinical care is supportive, according to a report from the CDC.
“Quite honestly, there’s not a whole lot you can do with Enterovirus,” Dunn said. “It’s not like you can give them a pill or a shot and cure them. It’s just something that has to run its course.”
According to FDOH, the girl who contracted the virus was treated in Hillsborough County and is recovering in Polk County. Steve Huard, spokesman for FDOH in Hillsborough County, said she is doing well.
Huard said it’s hard to know the true risk EV-D68 has on the community.
“This is the first case [in Florida],” he said. “We’ve seen cases throughout the state, so I would think that we would probably see more, but we’re not expecting an epidemic proportion of cases.”
According to a press release by Jason Geary, senior media relations analyst for Polk County Public Schools, FDOH has been in contact with the school the girl attends. As of right now, the department is not releasing the name of the girl or the school.
According to the release, the Polk County School District is taking precautionary measures. Within the schools, teachers will encourage students to practice good hygiene by regularly washing their hands.
Other steps to prevent this virus will include having custodians for the schools continue to disinfect doorknobs, push-door plates and handrails. In addition, an EPA-approved disinfectant will be used to clean hard surfaces in offices and classrooms.
“Keep in mind, these respiratory infections are not uncommon during this time of year,” said Scott Sjoblom, spokesman for the FDOH in Polk County, “and the symptoms do appear very similar in nature to other respiratory type infections like other strains of the Enterovirus or even influenza.”
Nurses in school clinics received a memorandum from the FDOH in Polk County with information about EV-D68 to promote awareness of the possible symptoms associated with the virus. According to the release, nurses will be looking for students showing any of the symptoms.
According to the CDC, mild symptoms of the virus include a fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and body and muscle aches. Severe symptoms include wheezing and difficulty breathing.
In order to prevent the spread of EV-D68, the CDC suggests avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, washing hands frequently with soap and water, covering coughs and sneezes with a shirt sleeve or tissue instead of hands, and cleaning surfaces like toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is showing symptoms.
“Despite the fact that this is the first case to be confirmed in Florida, there’s really no cause for parents to be alarmed,” Sjoblom said. “Respiratory viruses are common this time of year, and so as long as they continue to practice those healthy hygiene habits, it’s going to be the best thing that they can do to help keep their family safe.”