Prevention is key to reducing viral risk

Brittany Hayes, Web Editor

Students completing clinicals, student teaching, and internships that bring them in contact with children are taking steps to help prevent the spread of a respiratory virus that is sweeping the nation.

Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses. This virus was first identified in California in 1962 and from mid-August to October 7, 2014, the Center for Disease Control or state public health laboratories have confirmed a total of 628 people in 44 states and the District of Columbia with respiratory illness caused by EV-D68.

Dr. Cynthia Mailloux, Professor and Chair of the Nursing Department, said nursing students in clinical placements are well prepared to avoid the transmission of diseases.
“If anybody has some type of viral or bacterial infection, the facilities all have standard precautions, which means that if it is a situation where it is highly contagious, the students would always wear a mask, a gown, and gloves so that they protect themselves when they go into that room. Then when they leave the room, they take everything off, and then obviously if there are any germs on them, that stays in that room and doesn’t transfer to the next room.”
Likewise Dr. Marianne Vitale, Professor of Education, thinks student teachers are ready to face  illnesses that may be going around in local school districts.
“In any school situation, there are children who come to school with illnesses. Education majors are taught from freshman year to take precautions in order to keep themselves and their students safe and to stop the spread of illnesses. If a situation in a particular school gets serious enough, the school will close as a precautionary measure.”
Vitale said student teachers are often put into difficult situations because they are not told about certain illnesses or diseases that their students might have.
“We talk a lot about not only teacher measures but also what teachers should be working with children on, correct hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, disposing of used tissues. Actually, because of the laws that guard the privacy of health information, teachers may be working with children who have or are carriers of serious conditions like HIV but not be aware because they are not judged to have a need to know. So my advice would be to be very careful with hygiene with every student all the time.”
Mailloux  emphasizes the need for proper hygiene. “The biggest thing is to make sure you wash your hands. When you are coughing, make sure you are coughing into your sleeve, not necessarily into your hands because of course that’s when [people] open a door and then that germ is on the door- so really just good hand washing. It’s as simple as that.”
Mailloux said that the reason so many younger children are subject to  illness – such as EV-D68 is  their respiratory systems are not well developed.

“The problem is when these viruses hit kids, kids have little airways so that seems to be their biggest challenge. They have difficulty breathing and obviously if there’s secretion, it blocks those airways.”
Mailloux said the virus seems to be hitting children with asthma problems due to their already weakened respiratory systems.  “It looks like a typical viral illness. We have a similar viral illness which hits in this area every winter called USV. This seems to be really problematic for children who already have asthma, so that’s why it presents itself as a cold and it makes that asthma worse. It looked to be that this is where the problem has been.”
Students who begin exhibiting symptoms of  EV-D68 are advised to seek treatment as soon as possible, whether it be on campus at the health center or with their primary care physicians  to fend off the illness before it gets any worse.
Mailloux said  students who begin showing symptoms must act. “If you are presenting with those symptoms, be extra diligent to make sure you are throwing tissues away properly, covering your mouth or your nose, so that again you’re not spreading it.”