The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) says testing has confirmed that a virus causing outbreaks in Illinois, Ohio, Kansas and other states is also causing illness here. Deputy State Epidemiologist, Ann Garvey, says the enterovirus normally occurs this time of year, but the number of cases seen in other states has caused concern.
Garvey says they don’t know how many cases there may be in Iowa. “This is not a reportable disease in Iowa or nationally, so we don’t have case counts. But we’re hearing anecdotally from health care facilities across the state that they’re seeing some cases,” Garvey says. “But we haven’t received any requests for assistance from Iowa health care facilities and we haven’t heard that they are unable to keep up with patient demands.”
Garvey says they sent samples from Iowa patients to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta to see if they were the same virus type known as EVD-68 that has hit other states. “Those samples were positive for the same virus. What makes this a little more difficult to is that, while many laboratories can detect enteroviruses, there are not many that can detect the type of enterovirus that is causing the illness. That’s why those samples had to be sent to the CDC,” Garvey says.
The virus begins like a cold and symptoms include coughing and wheezing, and Garvey says it can quickly spread if precautions aren’t taken. “It’s spread just through direct contact with other ill individuals — like sharing eating utensils and drinks and just direct contact or contact with contaminated surfaces,” according to Garvey.
There’s not much that can be done to treat the virus, other than letting it run its course. “There’s no specific treatment, there’s no antiviral medications, and again, most infections are going to resolve on their own. We just recommend that people drink plenty of fluids, they rest, stay home,” according to Garvey.
Garvey says it’s important to use proper hygiene to prevent its spread. “We’re just recommending that people wash their hands with soap and water frequently, avoid touching their eyes nose and mouths with their unwashed hands,” Garvey says. “And avoid kissing and touching and sharing cups and utensils with people who are sick. And just disinfecting touched surfaces pretty frequently.”
There are some national reports of kids getting seriously ill from the viruses, but Garvey says that’s not the outcome for the majority of people. “Most people are going to have relatively minor illness and can recover on their own at home. People who have asthma or other respiratory conditions might have more severe illness,” she explains. “And so, we would recommend anyone who has cold-like symptoms and starts experiences difficulty breathing — or has other more serious health concerns — we would recommend that they contact their health care provider.”
Garvey says enteroviruses are very common viruses, with more than 100 types. It is estimated that 10 to 15 million enterovirus infections occur in the United States each year, usually in the summer and fall.