A rare strain of non-polio enterovirus-D68 is more severe this year than before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

From mid-August to mid-October 2014 the CDC or state public health laboratories have confirmed a total of 796 people in 46 states and the District of Columbia have contracted respiratory illness caused by EV-D68, with at least one case being detected in each state.

As of Oct. 10, six deaths have been attributed to the virus.

Enterovirus is most commonly associated with summer and fall bouts of coughing and respiratory illness in children. This fall a higher number of children are being hospitalized with severe respiratory distress associated with enterovirus-D68.

Children and teenagers returning to school are at the highest risk of infection as they come into contact with higher numbers of other children. Infants also are at high risk.

The virus is spread through respiratory secretions and by touching contaminated surfaces such as desks or doorknobs.

EV-D68 is especially dangerous for children with asthma.

The first signs of this virus may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough and body/muscle aches. Severe symptoms include wheezing and difficulty breathing, according to the CDC.

There is no treatment for EV-D68.

Help your child avoid exposure to EV-D68 by having them wash their hands in soapy water at least 20 seconds, and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

Children should also avoid close contact or sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick and should cover coughs and sneezes with tissue or the shirt sleeve—not the hands. Parents need to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as toys, doorknobs and other areas exposed to people who may be sick.

To help protect others, stay at home and keep sick children out of school.

Dr. Christina Lukasko, a naturopathic doctor in North Vancouver, British Columbia, who focuses on treating skin conditions, hormonal imbalances and autoimmune disease, wrote online that “Boosting your child’s immune system by eating a balanced diet high in vitamin C and low in sugar and high fructose corn syrup is important. You can also see your naturopathic doctor for natural ways to boost your child’s immune system.”

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