I was half joking the other week when I mentioned how you know kids are back in school when they start getting sick, making reference to what they call the "back-to-school plague."  However, a new virus is spreading quickly, now impacting Iowa, and this is no laughing matter.

A new virus, called EV-D68, has been making headlines lately as it has spread across the midwest, and is now impacting Iowa children too. The symptoms begin much like a common cold. However, the tell tale is the coughing and especially any wheezing, which can lead to difficulty breathing. Luckily many infections are mild, with most patients only needing treatment for the symptoms, such as cough suppressants, and the virus will simply run its course. However, in some of the worst cases, the infected will need to be hospitalized with intensive support therapy and possibly breathing assistance. Young children and those suffering from asthma are the most at risk.  More specifically, they say kids from 6 months to 16 years have been seen in recent cases, with 4 and 5 year olds being the most common.

The CDC speculates that over 1000 children across the country already have been infected with the virus.  The worst outbreak so far has been in Kansas City, Missouri, where they've been treating roughly 30 children a day, with 15% of the kids placed in intensive care. One Kansas City doctor recently told CNN:

“I’ve practiced for 30 years in pediatrics, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this."  ~Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, Division Director for Infectious Disease, Children’s Mercy Hospital

Beyond Missouri, the virus has now been reported in 10 other states, including Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Atlanta, Utah, Georgia, and Iowa.

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Before you get yourself too worked up on this, do know most Enterovirus, like this one, are very common, with more than 100 types, with 10-15 million infections in the US last year alone.  Also, in almost all cases, this is not life threatening, although it can be very scary for parents.  They are also warning that this will get worse, with more cases occurring, before it gets better. It's time to see the doctor if you're noticing labored breathing, or rapid breathing.

So how do you protect yourself and you kids?

Unfortunately, the virus is very contagious, passed simply from contact with an affected person.  So, if you think you or a family member is sick, keep them home, but make sure they get plenty of rest and fluids.  You'll also want to frequently cleaning and disinfect all surfaces they may have touched.  Make sure you're also teaching children to cough into a tissue, or at least the crook of the elbow.

The biggest combatant however, is proper hand washing. Those antibacterial gels just don't cut it in this situation. Watch this with your kids to refresh yourselves on the proper way to wash your hands.