Enteroviruses are a group of small viruses that include over 60 types of viruses, which cause a wide variety of illnesses with fever, including three vaccine preventable enteroviruses that cause polio. Non-polio enteroviruses are very common. They are second only to the "common cold" viruses, the rhinoviruses, as the most common viral infectious agents in humans. The enteroviruses cause an estimated 10-15 million or more symptomatic infections a year in the United States.
Most people infected with an enterovirus have no symptoms. Some enteroviruses cause symptoms similar to the cold or flu such as fever, body aches, sore throat and mild to moderate skin rash. Less often these viruses can cause more serious symptoms such as meningitis (swelling of the spinal nerve cords) or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
Enteroviruses can be found in the respiratory secretions (e.g., saliva, sputum, or nasal mucus) and stool of an infected person. Other persons may become infected by direct contact with secretions or stool from an infected person or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, such as a drinking glass or telephone. Parents, teachers, and child care center workers may also become infected by contamination of the hands with stool from an infected infant or toddler during diaper changes.
Everyone is at risk of infection. Infants, children and adolescents are more likely to become infected and develop illness from enteroviruses than adults.
Unfortunately, there are no vaccines for these viruses. Good personal hygiene, especially handwashing before handling food and after using the bathroom and/or changing diapers, can reduce the spread of these viruses.
There are no specific drugs to fight these viruses, but some medications can be used to make the person feel better. Although you can develop immunity to one virus, you can still get sick with any of the other enteroviruses.
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