Public Health Update: Enterovirus-D68

Updated: October 8, 2014

Why you should take note

Enteroviruses, such as EV-D68, are related to the common cold virus and can spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing, by close contact with infected persons, or by touching a contaminated surface.

Properly cleaning your hands, coughing into your sleeve and staying home when sick are the most effective measures you can do to protect yourself and children against all common cold viruses and enteroviruses such as EV-D68.

There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses. Most circulate and peak in the summer and fall so it is not unusual to see increased respiratory illnesses this time of year, especially with children going back to school.

The risk to Canadians is low for severe illness. Most people who get EV-D68 will have mild symptoms similar to the common cold, such as coughing and sneezing and will recover quickly.

Who is most at risk

Children and adults alike can get infected with EV-D68. Similar to all enteroviruses, infants, children and teenagers are more likely to become sick, in most instances with minor cold-like symptoms.

Severe symptoms

Severe symptoms due to EV-D68 may be more frequently reported in children with a history of asthma and people with a weakened immune system. These symptoms include difficulty breathing and wheezing.

Anyone with respiratory illness should contact their healthcare provider if they are having difficulty breathing, or if their symptoms are getting worse.

EV-D68 and paralysis

There have been reports of a small number of children with some paralysis who also have EV-D68. A link between paralysis and EV-D68 is not confirmed and, as is the case with all reports of paralysis in children under 15 years old in Canada, will be investigated by treating physicians and relevant public health authorities.

Paralysis in children is rare occurrence. In Canada, approximately 25-60 cases are reported every year. The majority of cases of paralysis among children in Canada are diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

What you can do

There is no vaccine for EV-D68. The most effective measures you can do to protect yourself and children against this and other viruses that cause cold and flu-like illnesses are:

  • Regularly use a hand sanitizer or clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Clean your hands:
    • before and after eating
    • after you have been in a public place
    • after using the washroom
    • after changing diapers
    • after coughing and sneezing
    • after touching common surfaces
  • Cough and sneeze into your arm, not your hand
  • Keep your hands away from your face
  • Keep common surface areas clean and disinfected
  • If you get sick, stay home
  • Eat healthy foods and be physically active to keep your immune system strong.

What the Public Health Agency of Canada is doing

The Agency is aware of the EV-D68 cases in Canada, is monitoring this issue and is in contact with the provinces and territories as well as with U.S. public health officials.

A Public Health Alert has been sent to health professionals across the country to increase awareness and to remain vigilant for possible Enterovirus infections causing respiratory illness.

The Agency is working with the Canadian Pediatric Society to keep pediatricians informed.

The Agency’s National Microbiology Laboratory is providing guidance and assisting provincial public health laboratories with the testing of samples for the EV-D68 subtype.

Message from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada - Enterovirus-D68

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