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Midwestern Mystery Virus Causing Paralysis, Respiratory Problems in Children

Midwestern Mystery Virus Causing Paralysis, Respiratory Problems in Children

An update on the mysterious outbreak of EV-D68, a virus almost unheard-of in the United States until this year, when it suddenly blitzed across the Midwest and sent nearly 300 victims – mostly young children a history of respiratory problems – to intensive care:

According to ABC News in Colorado, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is looking into at least nine cases of “limb weakness and paralysis” reported by children stricken by respiratory virus infections.  It’s not clear if there’s any connection between these neurological problems and the virus, but some of the affected children tested positive for EV-D68, so the CDC is taking the threat seriously:

All of the children had reported having a respiratory virus before showing symptoms of limb weakness.

Six of the eight children tested were found to be positive for a rhinovirus or enterovirus and four of those cases were found to be the Enterovirus 68. The other two cases were still pending.

Dr. Larry Wolk, the chief medical officer and executive director for Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the children affected range in age from one to 18, with an average age of 10.

“It is a spectrum of arm or leg weakness that can be as mild as weakness or as severe as paralysis,” Wolk said. “What ties them all together though are findings of spots or lesions in the grey matter of the spinal cord on MRI scans.”

Medical officials have not determined whether the Enterovirus 68 virus caused the neurological symptoms, but the CDC is asking other medical workers to report any similar cases as the outbreak continues to spread throughout the U.S.

The story includes an account from one 13-year-old EV-D68 victim who had asthma, was hit hard by the virus, and experienced severe weakness in his arms coupled with near-paralysis in his legs.  Fortunately, he has since recovered.

Fox News in Minneapolis says the CDC has “distributed a survey to help medical workers report any similar cases,” asking if reported limb weakness in young victims was accompanied by spinal lesions and reported after August 1 of this year.  One of the lingering concerns about EV-D68 is that for most people who contract it, it’s just a really bad headcold, so it might have spread far more widely than the current tally of 277 known victims with serious symptoms would suggest… and more children exposed to the outbreak could manifest these more severe symptoms, particularly if they’ve had respiratory problems in the past.  As to how the heck spinal lesions could be associated with this thing, let’s hope the CDC gets to the bottom of it quickly.

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