More than 1,000 children across 10 states have been hospitalized, in what experts suspect is an outbreak of a rare respiratory illness called enterovirus-D68 or EV-D68, according to ABC News.
Related to rhinovirus (aka the common cold), enterovirus causes 10 to 15 million infections in the Unites States each year, especially in the summer and fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people with enterovirus don't get sick and others may develop cold symptoms that go away on their own.
But EV-D68, specifically, is very rare—and can be very dangerous. It starts out with sneezing, coughing and a runny nose, but it can quickly progress and impede breathing. In severe cases, it can be potentially life-threatening.
Here's everything you need to know to about the symptoms, the treatment and more:
What signs should I look out for?
At first, symptoms are very similar to the common cold, so it's hard to tell if you have a more serious illness. But if you or one of the kids begins wheezing, develops a bad cough, have difficulty breathing, or gets a rash or a sudden fever, then you should make an appointment with a doctor, ASAP. Children with asthma are more likely to have respiratory symptoms severe enough to warrant hospitalization, ABC News reports.
RELATED: How to Fight 14 Classroom Germs
Where is it happening?
Missouri and Colorado are the hardest-hit areas so far, but officials in Kansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Ohio have also seen an uptick in children with severe symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping confirm patient test results for EV-D68 in those areas, and to contain the virus, ABC News reports. But, experts caution, it's likely that the virus will spread further as it's highly.
What’s the treatment?
There is no specific treatment, and since it's a virus, antibiotics won't help. But as long as enterovirus doesn't escalate to serious lung trouble, you can relieve symptoms with pain relievers, fluids, and plenty of rest. People who’ve ended up in the hospital seem to be those with asthma who've had severe trouble breathing and some have been sedated and put on a respirator until they recover, according to ABC News.
Can I do anything to prevent it?
Enterovirus spreads through close contact with an infected person or by touching, say, a countertop with the virus present. That means you can majorly reduce your risk for picking it up with hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces that are touched by lots of different people, like doorknobs and toys.
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter