Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is an uncommon but serious neurological condition, mostly in young children. It affects the nervous system, specifically the area of the spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak. Viruses, including EV-D68, likely play a role in causing AFM. Read more about AFM on our website.
First identified in California in 1962, enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses.
Beginning in 1987, small numbers of EV-D68 had been reported to CDC regularly. However, outbreaks of EV-D68 have since been detected between August and November in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
In the United States, you are more likely to get infected with enteroviruses in the summer and fall. However, you can get infected year-round.
EV-D68 can cause mild to severe respiratory illness, or no symptoms at all.
- Mild symptoms may include runny nose, sneezing, cough, body aches, and muscle aches.
- Severe symptoms may include wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Anyone with respiratory illness should contact their doctor if they are having difficulty breathing or if their symptoms are getting worse. Seek immediate medical attention if you or your child develops any of these symptoms following a respiratory illness:
- arm or leg weakness
- pain in the neck, back, arms, or legs
- difficulty swallowing or slurred speech
- difficulty moving the eyes or drooping eyelids
- facial droop or weakness
Since EV-D68 causes respiratory illness, the virus can be found in an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum (mucus-like secretions from the lungs). EV-D68 likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches a surface that is then touched by others.
In general, infants, children, and teenagers are most likely to get infected with enteroviruses and become ill. That’s because they do not yet have immunity (protection) from previous exposures to these viruses. We believe this is also true for EV-D68. Adults can get infected with enteroviruses, but they are more likely to have no symptoms or mild symptoms.
Children with asthma may have a higher risk for severe respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 infection.
Watch CDC medical epidemiologist Brian Rha explain who is at risk for EV-D68 and more in a 2-minute video on WebMDexternal icon.
EV-D68 can only be diagnosed by doing specific lab tests on specimens from a person’s nose and throat, or blood. Many hospitals and some doctor’s offices can test ill patients to see if they have enterovirus infection. However, most cannot do specific testing to determine the type of enterovirus, like EV-D68. CDC and some state health departments can do this sort of testing using a real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) lab test, which allows testing and reporting of results within a few days of receiving specimens. Health departments may contact CDC for further enterovirus typing.
CDC recommends that clinicians consider testing for EV-D68 when patients present with severe respiratory illness and the cause is unclear. For more information, see Enterovirus D68 for Health Care Professionals.
There is no specific treatment for people with respiratory illness caused by EV-D68. Talk to a doctor about your symptoms and the best way to control them.
Some people with severe respiratory illness may need to be hospitalized and receive intensive supportive therapy.
There are no antiviral medications currently available for people who become infected with EV-D68.
You can help prevent yourself from getting and spreading EV-D68 by following these steps:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. See Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick, and when you are sick.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
See our infographic that shows these prevention steps.
There are no vaccines to prevent EV-D68 infections.
Children with asthma may have a higher risk for severe symptoms from EV-D68 and other respiratory illnesses. They should follow CDC’s guidance to maintain control of their illness during enterovirus season, which occurs each year in the U.S. during summer and fall.
CDC recommends the following:
- Discuss and update your asthma action plan with your primary care provider.
- Take your prescribed asthma medications as directed, especially long-term control medication(s).
- Be sure to keep your reliever medication with you.
- Get a flu vaccine when available each year.
- If you develop new or worsening asthma symptoms, follow the steps of your asthma action plan. If your symptoms do not go away, call your doctor right away.
- Parents should make sure the child’s caregiver and/or teacher is aware of his/her condition, and that they know how to help if the child experiences any symptoms related to asthma.
For additional information, see “What Parents Need to Know about Enterovirus D68” in
In summer and fall 2014, the United States experienced a nationwide outbreak of EV-D68 associated with severe respiratory illness. From mid-August 2014 to January 15, 2015, CDC or state public health laboratories confirmed 1,395 people in 49 states and the District of Columbia with respiratory illness caused by EV-D68. Almost all of the confirmed cases were among children, many whom had asthma or a history of wheezing. Additionally, there were likely many thousands of mild EV-D68 infections for which people did not seek medical treatment and/or get tested. This was the first documented nationwide outbreak of EV-D68. Although illness associated with EV-D68 is not notifiable, circulation of this virus occurs most often in late summer and fall, which is the typical enterovirus season.
CDC received about 2,600 specimens for enterovirus testing during 2014, which was substantially more than usual. About 39% of those tested positive for EV-D68. About 40% tested positive for an enterovirus or rhinovirus other than EV-D68.
Enteroviruses are ever-present in the community. A mix of enteroviruses circulates every year, and different types of enteroviruses can be common in different years. However, outbreaks of EV-D68 have been detected August through November in 2014, 2016, and 2018. Each year we expect to detect cases, but the number of cases identified in the U.S. varies from year to year. As in previous years, CDC will continue to work with states to test specimens for enteroviruses to determine virus type, support the identification and investigation of outbreaks, and monitor seasonal activity.