LIVINGSTON, NJ – Every year there are new strains of flus and cold viruses and 2014 is no different. In fact, right now, the fast-spreading Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), which has caused respiratory illness in children, especially youngsters with asthma, has invaded New Jersey.
Typically, EV-D68 causes upper respiratory symptoms such as cough, runny nose, sneezing and body/muscle aches and possibly low-grade fever. Infected individuals generally recover on their own without incident. However, some individuals, especially those with weakened immune systems or underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, may experience severe complications and require hospitalization with supportive therapy.
In a note to parents this week, Livingston Public Schools (LPS) said that it is important for the school district provide residents with some pertinent information and constructive suggestions. School and home must work together for the health and safety of all students. LPS asked residents to recognize that the steps taken may seem rigid but are to protect as many students as possible.
According to LPS, early detection and prevention of respiratory illness, particularly in school settings among students, is an important function of LPS staff and nurses.
The note said that unfortunately, in the beginning it is difficult -- if not impossible -- to tell the difference between a regular cold and EV-D68 virus.
Of course, not all respiratory illnesses occurring right now are due to this Enterovirus, but if a child develops a fever or a rash, or if he/she has difficulty breathing, LPS is encouraging residents to seek medical attention right away. Children with asthma or a history of breathing problems are particularly susceptible for severe symptoms.
At school, students who present themselves with symptoms will be referred to their parents for medical follow-up, and LPS insist that students stay home until they are symptom-free and/or are fever-free for 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medication.
According to LPS, “We believe that following sound health habits will go a long way to minimizing the risk to Livingston students. Therefore we ask you to join us in reminding students to wash their hands regularly. We also want you to know that the district will also be taking extra precautions. Our custodial staffs will clean and disinfect common areas more frequently, especially surfaces which are touched regularly, including doorknobs, desks and lunch tables. We will also direct the staff to clean our buses on a daily basis.”
Below is information provided by the New Jersey Health Commissioner:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed New Jersey's first case of Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), a respiratory illness more likely found in infants and children, sometimes resulting in hospitalization. The confirmed case was identified from a specimen sent to the CDC from a Philadelphia hospital. The child has since improved and has been discharged. Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes.
The preventive steps people can take to avoid becoming ill are similar to those of most illnesses like the flu. Good hand hygiene is your best defense against getting infected with Enterovirus.
Below are tips to help protect oneself and others from Enterovirus infections:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact (kissing, touching, sharing eating utensils and shaking hands) with people who are sick
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as door knobs and toys
- Stay home when sick and call your healthcare provider
- Use good respiratory hygiene; coughing and sneezing into a tissue or elbow and properly disposing of tissues.