Cornwall Ontario — With the recent confirmation of Enterovirus D68 cases in Ottawa, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is reassuring residents that the viral infection is generally mild for most people, but that sensible precautions can help protect people who may be more at risk from the infection.
According to Public Health Ontario, enterovirus infections are very common, peaking in the summer or fall. The Enterovirus D68 strain (also known as EV-D68) causes respiratory illness with symptoms ranging from a mild cold-like illness, to coughing and wheezing, to severe infections requiring hospitalization. EV-D68 tends to infect children and teenagers most often, although the virus can infect adults as well.
Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health, states that “Symptoms are usually mild, and most people get better on their own. But people with asthma or other respiratory conditions can sometimes develop more serious symptoms that require them to use their asthma inhalers more frequently. Anyone who develops severe breathing difficulties should seek medical attention right away.” He adds that no deaths have been attributed to the recent increase in EV-D68 in North America.
The virus spreads through respiratory droplets in much the same way as the flu or a common cold (through coughing or sneezing, or touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes). While there’s no vaccine or specific treatment for EV-D68, simple precautions can reduce the chances of getting or spreading the virus:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your face as much as possible.
- Stay at least two metres (six feet) away from people who are ill.
- Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are commonly touched (e.g. doorknobs, toys, light switches, counters and tables, handrails, toilet handles, keyboards, telephones, work surfaces).
- Stay home from work, school and other activities if you’re ill.
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow and not your hand.
People with asthma should ensure that their puffers are not empty or expired, are with them at all times, and that they know how to use them properly. If you have wheezing that does not respond to puffers or if you are having difficulty breathing (whether you have asthma or not), seek medical attention immediately.
For more information about EV-D68, talk to your healthcare provider. You can also visit the Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s website at www.eohu.ca, or call 1 613-933-1375 or 1 800 267-7120 and ask for Health Line.