State health department investigating less-common enterovirus in children

June 12, 2018
DENVER - The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is investigating a number of viral infections with neurologic complications among children. Testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests these cases may be caused by enterovirus A71. The department is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Colorado hospitals in this investigation.
There have been six confirmed cases so far, and a number of others are being investigated. All cases are in the Denver metro area.
Enteroviruses are common and can cause cold-like illnesses; hand, foot and mouth disease; and skin rashes. A71 is a less-common type of enterovirus in the United States and usually causes mild illness. Rarely, it may cause neurologic illnesses not commonly seen with other enteroviruses, such as meningitis, encephalitis and acute flaccid myelitis.
All enteroviruses are spread through contact with an infected person’s feces; eye, nose and mouth secretions (such as saliva, nasal mucus or sputum); and fluid from blisters caused by the virus. Some people with enteroviruses have no symptoms but still can spread the virus to others.
There is no vaccination or specific treatment for enteroviruses, including A71. People with mild illness typically need treatment only for symptoms. However, some illnesses caused by EV-A71 can be severe enough to require hospitalization.
Contact a health care provider if you or your child has severe symptoms such as sudden weakness in arms and legs, trouble breathing, unsteady walking, severe headache, stiff neck or seizures.
To protect yourself and others from enteroviruses:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Be especially careful to wash your hands after using the toilet and changing diapers.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and don’t share cups and eating utensils.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when you’re sick, and keep children home from summer camp or daycare for 24 hours after fever ends or if they are drooling uncontrollably and have mouth sores.
  • The risk for getting enteroviruses in well-maintained pools is considered low, but follow healthy swimming practices to help prevent diseases that spread through contact with feces.
    • Shower before you get in the water.
    • Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
    • Change diapers away from poolside.
    • Take kids on bathroom breaks every hour.
    • Don’t swallow pool water.
Colorado has experienced previous outbreaks of less-common enteroviruses. In 2014, enterovirus D68 caused an outbreak of respiratory illness in Colorado children and was associated with 12 cases of acute flaccid myelitis. In 2003 and 2005, enterovirus A71 caused outbreaks similar to what Colorado is experiencing now, with eight cases of central nervous system infections occurring in each of those years.