A polio-like illness is spreading among children in Colorado and may be linked to enterovirus D68, the respiratory virus that’s sent dozens of children nationwide to the hospital.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating the neurological symptoms, which include paralysis and muscle weakness. CDC officials say they do not believe the symptoms are caused by polio. At least eight of the 10 children affected by the new symptoms are up-to-date on their polio vaccinations.
The children, who were admitted to Children’s Hospital in Colorado, presented with symptoms including weakness in the shoulders, triceps, biceps and hips, as well as the neck and facial muscles. MRI tests showed abnormalities in the children’s spinal gray matter. Doctors say they do not know if the paralysis will be permanent.
Most of the children affected with the symptoms reported having a respiratory illness before being admitted to the hospital, though only two had asthma. CDC officials say they do not know if the paralysis is related to enterovirus D68. Tests on the children’s cerebrospinal fluid came back negative for the virus, however the virus was found in six of eight patients whose nasal passages were tested.
A cluster of children with similar neurological symptoms was seen in California last year. Two of those children tested positive for entervirus D68.
Enterovirus D68 is part of a family of viruses that also includes the poliovirus, other enteroviruses, and rhinoviruses. They are very common, especially in the late summer and early fall, affecting 10 to 15 million people in the United States each year.
Enterovirus usually start with symptoms similar to the common cold, such as sneezing, runny nose and cough. Most people recover without treatment, but some types of the virus are more dangerous, causing hand, foot and mouth disease; viral meningitis; infections of the heart or brain; and paralysis.
So far this year, enterovirus D68 has infected at least 277 people in 40 states., and the virus has also been seen in Canada It is particularly dangerous to children with asthma.