As child care providers, one of our greatest responsibilities is protecting the health and safety of the children in our care. We have Health and Safety Policies in place to define what that looks like, but every once in a while, we are thrown a curve. That’s what’s happening right now.
As cold and flu season gets going, we now have Enterovirus 68 thrown into the mix. You’ve probably seen it on television as it seems to be raging throughout the country right now with infections reported in 45 states. Enterovirus 68 is a respiratory virus that is very similar to a common cold. Mild symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and body and muscle aches.
As child care providers, we need to realize that children are most at-risk of becoming infected with this virus and the age group most commonly infected are children between the ages of 4 and 5. The biggest problem with Enterovirus 68 is that it can quickly become quite serious, especially for children with asthma. We have to make sure that we have appropriate care plans in place for any children with asthma.
Signs of distress in a child, such as difficulty talking, audible wheezing or bluish lip color call for immediate medical intervention.
Since Enterovirus 68 is a respiratory virus, it is found in secretions such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum. Other than watching for signs of illness in children, the best way to protect children and your staff is to follow your already established Standard Precautions, such as:
- Wash hands frequently using soap and water.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick (by making sure that those who are sick are excluded from care).
With conscientious care, you can help keep the children in your care and your staff healthy. And, if anyone becomes ill, you know how to identify when it may be becoming more serious and when to seek medical assistance.
And, yes, the CDC is now investigating whether there is a link between Enterovirus 68 and the unexplained symptoms of paralysis that some children have experienced in the past several months. Keep your eyes open for more information on that possible link.