DEAR HARRIETTE: School has started, and I am worried sick. I know there's always a chance that children can and do catch germs from one another, but this year seems worse than ever. Is there a way that I can ensure my child remains healthy this school semester? I am concerned about the enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) cold virus that is spreading around the country. How can I protect my children? -- Cautious Mom, West Orange, New Jersey
DEAR CAUTIOUS MOM: You have every right to be worried. This virus, which was discovered back in the 1960s, has shown up this year in 22 states with about 160 people diagnosed with the illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is an illness that affects the respiratory system, so children (and adults) who suffer from asthma or other illnesses that compromise the respiratory system are being advised to be particularly cautious.
In general, the measures being recommended to reduce one's likelihood of contracting this disease are the very things we are advised to do anyway: Wash your hands in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; and avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with sick people. I would add that you should tell your children never to eat other children's food. Stay in touch with their teachers so that you are aware if other children are getting sick.
For more information from the Centers for Disease Control, visit cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/about/ev-d68.html.