Dr. Thomas Kirsch is a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and is the national physician advisor for the American Red Cross Disaster Health Services. He is deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
A new virus spreading across much of the country, known as Enterovirus D68, that is much like the flu –with fever, sneezing, aches, and a runny nose – but with a cough that is a problem for many patients.
For some infants, children, and teens – especially those with asthma – the respiratory effects of this virus can be severe and require a trip to the emergency room or hospitalization.
With the virus identified in 12 states to date in early October, and flu just season around the corner, it’s time to prepare.
Today, I participated as a guest in the ABC News Twitter Chat about the Enterovirus. You can find tweets from the chat by searching #abcDrBchat in Twitter.
People can also follow these seven guidelines to protect yourself and your family from the Enterovirus and the flu:
- Soap it and stop it. Proper hand washing helps avoid getting and spreading viruses. If using soap and water, wash thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, rinse, and then dry with a disposable towel (and use it to turn off the faucet). If using an alcohol-based sanitize, rub thoroughly over the hands until the gel dries.
- Keep a handle on hands. Keep hands away from the eyes, nose and mouth to stop germs from entering the body. If you sneeze or cough, do it into a tissue and throw it away. If you don’t have a tissue, direct your germs into your elbow, not your hands.
- Keep your distance. Avoid close contact such as handshakes and hugs with people and co-workers who may be ill.
- Don’t share your stuff. Avoid sharing items at home and work such as utensils, drinks, computers, telephones and mobile devices. If you must share, disinfect surfaces before and after. Regularly disinfect doorknobs, switches, handles, desks and other surfaces that are commonly touched.
- Stay home if sick. If a family member gets the Enterovirus, help others stay healthy by keeping the sick person home until 24 hours after their fever is gone without taking medication.
- Get a flu shot. Though it does not protect against the Enterovirus, the flu vaccine is recommended for everyone aged six months and older, especially pregnant women, people aged 50 or older, and those with chronic medical conditions.
- See a doctor. Remember that children and adults experiencing difficulty breathing should see their health care provider. Those with known respiratory illnesses such as asthma should be sure to take their medications.
You also can prepare for respiratory emergencies by taking Red Cross training courses such as the Red Cross online Family First Aid and Pediatric CPR course.