Nine Colorado children have experienced “muscle weakness” and paralysis after becoming ill with a mystery virus that may be connected to a respiratory infection that has been detected in 19 states. The paralyzed children all carry the enterovirus 68 — a virus first detected in 1962 — and experienced respiratory sickness within a couple of weeks of falling victim to the paralyzing disease. The CDC is investigating the virus, but doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Associated Press:
The virus can cause paralysis but other germs can, too. Health officials don’t know whether the virus caused any of the children’s arm and leg weaknesses or whether it’s just a germ they coincidentally picked up. “That’s why we want more information,” and for doctors to report similar cases, said the CDC’s Dr. Jane Seward. The cases occurred within the last two months. All nine children are being treated at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, and most are from the Denver area. A hospital spokeswoman said the patients’ families didn’t want to talk to the media. The nine children had fever and respiratory illness about two weeks before developing varying degrees of limb weakness. None seems to have a weak immune system or other conditions that might predispose them to severe illness, but the cases are still being investigated, Seward said. Investigators don’t think it’s polio – eight of the nine children are up to date on polio vaccinations. It’s not known whether the limb weakness or paralysis is temporary or will be long-lasting. The cases come amid an unusual wave of severe respiratory illness from enterovirus 68. The germ is not new – it was first identified in 1962 and has caused clusters of illness before, including in Georgia and Pennsylvania in 2009 and Arizona in 2010. Because it’s not routinely tested for, it’s possible the bug spread in previous years but was never distinguished from colds caused by other germs. This year, the virus has gotten more attention because it has been linked to hundreds of severe illnesses. Beginning last month, a flood of sick children began to hit hospitals in Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago – kids with trouble breathing, some needing oxygen or more extreme care such as a breathing machine. Many – but not all – had asthma before the infection. The CDC has been testing a limited number of specimens from very sick children around the country, and as of Thursday reported 277 people in 40 states and the District of Columbia with enterovirus 68. So far no deaths have been attributed to the virus, but Seward said 15 still are being investigated.
There have been efforts to tie the virus to illegal aliens flowing into the country from Central America, but that’s clearly not the case. Since the virus has been in the US since 1962, it may be that better detection methods are responsible for the spike in cases this year. The CDC also points to similar outbreaks in the past. As for the paralysis, the CDC says that enterovirus 68 has been the suspected culprit in other cases of limb weakness and paralysis. What they don’t know is why there has been an apparent increase in the number of cases involving paralyzed children. The CDC’s medical detectives are the best in the world, so they are likely to eventually come up with some answers.