US doctors have reported 12 cases of muscle weakness or paralysis among children in Colorado that may be linked to a nationwide outbreak of an usually rare respiratory virus called EV-D68.
EV-D68 is a so-called non-polio enterovirus. Some viruses in this group have been found to cause meningitis, encephalitis or paralysis, as well as infection of the heart muscle or the sac surrounding it, in a small number of people. EV-D68 has previously caused localized outbreaks of respiratory illness in Asia, Europe and the United States from 2008 to 2010. According to the latest figures on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, it returned last August in a US-wide outbreak, which as of January 15 had caused 1,153 mild to severe respiratory illness cases.
Physicians at the Children's Hospital Colorado examined 12 cases of sick youngsters who had been admitted over a three-month period. These children reportedly had varying degrees of muscle weakness in the arms and legs as well as facial paralysis or problems swallowing, Roughly a week after falling ill with a fever and breathing difficulties. 8 of the 12 tested positive for enteroviruses or rhinoviruses, of which five were identified as EV-D68. Scans showed that 10 children had spinal cord lesions and brain-stem lesions were seen in 9. Despite having received treatment, all 10 with limb weakness still have problems.
Exposure to EV-D68 comes from close contact with an infected person, through sneezes, coughing and shaking hands with them or touching surfaces that have the virus on it. There is currently no vaccine or targeted treatment for the disease.
The report appears online in UK medical journal The Lancet.