A mysterious outbreak of polio-like paralysis has crippled children nationwide and no one knows why. Their suspicion lies in an uncommon virus, as all of the children had the symptoms of Enterovirus 68 (EV-D68) infection.
There’s a cluster of ten children in Colorado of ten children, who, after going through a severe viral respiratory illness, experienced muscle weakness or partial paralysis, making breathing and swallowing difficult. More children in Missouri are suspected to have been afflicted with the same thing. Last year, five California children were stricken with the unexplained paralysis. In Boston, four children were also afflicted with partial paralysis. MRIs have shown damage to the spinal cord. It is not known whether the damage is permanent.
What is worrying is that this is coinciding with an unusual nationwide outbreak of EV-D68. EV-D68 is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses. Typically, it’s a rare cause of mild “summer colds” — between 1970 to 2005 only 26 cases were reported. This year, however, there are hundreds of cases in 43 states, and doctors suspect it could be related. One boy in New Jersey has died.
The problem is only some of the children tested positive for EV-D68. Health care officials don’t know if they simply collected samples too late. The children also tested negative for polio and West Nile Disease.
If “polio” sounds like it belongs in a vintage store, it’s because it does. Poliomyelitis or “infantile paralysis” has been wiped out in most countries due to an aggressive vaccine campaign. America has been polio-free for 30 years. Polio was formerly a plague on mankind, like smallpox, which killed thousands and left many more scarred. President Franklin D. Roosevelt suffered from polio, and had to wear leg braces and use a wheelchair.
EV-D68 and indeed all enteroviruses are related to the polio virus. Enterovirus 71 was identified as the cause of a spate of paralysis cases in Australia. What we could be seeing is a new mutant strain of EV-D68 which has evolved to be more transmissible and more dangerous, and unlike headline grabbing Ebola, EV-D68 is already all over the country.
Take the CDC’s advice. Wash your hands thoroughly, and trust me, you’re probably doing it wrong. Cough into your sleeve, or elbow — NOT into your hands. Avoid contact with sick people. Disinfect surfaces touched by those who are sick. If you are sick, STAY AT HOME, telecommute. Just be hygienic.