Because polio infection is complex and has been mostly eradicated worldwide, this article will discuss non-polio enteroviruses.
Signs and Symptoms of Non-Polio Enteroviruses
Often, people infected with non-polio enteroviruses have no symptoms, or they have only mild illness, like the common cold. Common signs of mild illness may include:
- Runny nose
- Skin rash
- Sore throat
- Mouth blisters
- Body and muscle aches
Sometimes enterovirus infections can also cause:
- Viral conjunctivitis
- Hand, foot, and mouth disease
- Viral meningitis (infection of the covering of the spinal cord and/or brain)
- Viral encephalitis (infection of the brain)
- Myocarditis (infection of the heart)
- Pericarditis (infection of the sac around the heart)
- Acute flaccid paralysis (a sudden onset of weakness in one or more arms or legs)
- Inflammatory muscle disease (slow, progressive muscle weakness)
Causes and Risk Factors of Non-Polio Enterovirus Infections
How Are Non-Polio Enteroviruses Diagnosed?
Infection with non-polio enteroviruses is confirmed by:
- A genetic test like a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, or
- Isolating the virus in cell culture and then testing with PCR to identify the virus
Duration of Enterovirus Infections
But severe infections can lead to long-term complications (see Complications, below).
Treatment and Medication Options for Non-Polio Enterovirus Infections
As with most viruses, treatment for enterovirus infections is aimed at helping to relieve the symptoms — for instance, drinking enough water to stay hydrated and taking over-the-counter cold medicine.
Currently no medications exist that kill enteroviruses. Because they are viruses, antibiotics are ineffective against them.
Prevention of Non-Polio Enterovirus Infections
The best way to prevent the spread of enteroviruses is to stay home when sick and to regularly wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Good hand hygiene is especially important after using the toilet, changing diapers, or having physical contact with people who are sick. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces can also help to prevent the spread of enteroviruses.
Complications of Non-Polio Enterovirus Infections
Enteroviruses are varied and can impact different people in different ways. In cases of mild illness with fever or sore throat, children can get dehydrated. If an enterovirus causes blisters on the skin, skin infections may develop if the blisters are not kept clean.
More serious complications include severe respiratory problems or even paralysis and death.
People who develop myocarditis as a result of an enterovirus infection may have heart failure and need long-term care.
In rare cases, newborns infected with a non-polio enterovirus may develop sepsis, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.
Research and Statistics: Who Gets Enterovirus Infections?
Related Conditions of Non-Polio Enterovirus Infections
Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
Symptoms of HFMD can include fever, sore throat, mouth sores, and a flat, red skin rash that shows up on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The rash can sometimes blister and show up on the knees, elbows, buttocks, or genital area. The virus can be found in the fluid of the blister and the scab itself, so the affected areas should be kept clean, and uninfected people should avoid touching them.
HFMD usually causes mild symptoms for 7 to 10 days, but parents may want to contact a healthcare provider if their child is not drinking enough to stay hydrated, if symptoms are severe or last more than 10 days, if the child has a weakened immune system, or if he or she is younger than 6 months old.
HFMD is frequently caused by the enteroviruses known as coxsackievirus A16, coxsackievirus A6, and enterovirus 71 (EV-71).
HFMD is not the same as foot-and-mouth disease, which is a disease that infects livestock.
Anyone with respiratory illness should contact their doctor if they're 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
Enterovirus A71 (EV-A71)
Infection with EV-A71 can have mild symptoms (such as with HFMD) or no symptoms at all. Rarely, infection can lead to severe neurological illnesses like meningitis, encephalitis (swelling of the brain and spinal cord), or a kind of paralyzing illness called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).
Resources We Love
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The CDC's website has a wealth of up-to-date info on non-polio enteroviruses, including what symptoms and complications they may cause, how to prevent the spread of infection, and a section on outbreaks and surveillance.
Infants and children with asthma have a greater risk of developing breathing problems and complications from enterovirus infections, so it's important that parents access trusted information on the topic. HealthyChildren.org, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, offers just that.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Enterovirus Surveillance Guidelines: Guidelines for Enterovirus Surveillance in Support of the Polio Eradication Initiative. WHO Regional Office for Europe and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015.
- Virus Taxonomy: The ICTV Report on Virus Classification and Taxon Nomenclature. Genus: Enterovirus. International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. July 2019.
- Disease of the Week: Enteroviruses. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 2020.
- Non-Polio Enteroviruses: Symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 2020.
- Enterovirus Infection: The Symptoms and Signs. EnteroVirus Foundation.
- Enterovirus D68. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 2020.
- Non-Polio Enterovirus: For Health Care Professionals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 2020.
- Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. December 2019.
- Enterovirus: What Parents Need to Know. HealthyChildren.org. March 2019.
- Messacar K, et al. Notes From the Field: Enterovirus A71 Neurologic Disease in Children—Colorado, 2018. CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). September 2018.