News about Enterovirus D68 is spreading like the virus – quickly and with increasing coverage. And all this talk of children being hospitalized for respiratory illness is scaring people. Moms are calling me because they’re concerned and are wondering how this affects them. They want to know the best way to protect themselves and their children from this once rare virus that is on the upswing.
To find out more about how this virus affects pregnant women I asked Dr. Michella Switzer, OBGYN with MomDoc Midwives what concerns she has for her patients during this outbreak. Her main concern is for women who already have respiratory illness who may come in contact with the virus.
Dr. Switzer is encouraging pregnant women who suffer with asthma not to ignore worsening asthma symptoms but to see their midwife or doctor if they are exposed to the virus.
“If you have asthma and you come down with the enterovirus you need to come in right away and get your asthma under control,” Dr. Switzer says.
Children and adults with chronic respiratory conditions are at greater risk for more severe symptoms and hospitalization due to Enterovirus D68, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The virus is spread through respiratory secretions and travels from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches contaminated surfaces.
Keep in mind that enterovirus D68 is a rare strain of a common summer illness that is usually mild in nature. If you’ve had a summer cold there’s a good chance that it was caused by an enterovirus. Most pregnant women are likely to be exposed to the illness but won’t contract the disease if they are already immune. Women who have previously had the virus will be immune to it.
So what if a woman has never had enterovirus D68 and is exposed during pregnancy. What then?
If women do become infected they typically do not get sick or only have mild symptoms such as runny nose, cough or sneezing, and can have fever and body and muscle aches. This particular strain occurs less commonly and has been reported to cause mild to severe respiratory illness, especially in children.
The good news is that there is no evidence that pregnant women who are infected with enterovirus are at greater risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth defects.
If a woman is infected shortly before she gives birth she can pass the virus to her baby. However, newborns usually have mild illness, and only rarely is severe illness seen in these babies. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce infection with enterovirus in infants mostly through maternal antibodies found in breast milk.
To protect yourself from the spread of enterovirus:
- Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands.
- Avoid hugging and kissing others who have symptoms or who are sick.
- Don’t share drinks, utensils, or food with people who are ill.
- Regularly disinfect toys, doorknobs, and all frequently touched surfaces, especially if someone in the household is ill.
To boost your immune system try these healthy living tips:
- Increase nutrition including lots of fruits and vegetables
- Get enough sleep
- Don’t smoke
- Exercise most days