CDC Warns Of A New Virus That May Cause Polio-Like Paralysis

Medline Plus

When children get sick, parents often sleep sleepless nights to make sure their little ones are alright. Sometimes, a normal flu would mean that they’re back on their feet within a few days. However, when it goes worse when the child needs immediate medical attention. Parents have to be mindful of the symptoms.

Rules suddenly go out the window and parents have to be mindful of signs, especially when the little one develops pain in the neck, back, arms, or legs; when swallowing becomes difficult and or when their speech becomes slurred; when they have difficulty moving their eyes and their eyelids are starting to drop; and when they notice signs of facial droop or weakness.

This is called the enterovirus EV-D68. The cases that have been reported were typically and have mild cold-like symptoms. However, without intervention, this can lead to severe neurologic complications that may even be more worrisome.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an official advisory. The warn people about the rise of cases in children who had been hospitalized with a respiratory illness that brings about a dire neurologic condition and reported that this has affected their muscles and reflexes by weakening it.

CDC has made a report last August and this came from healthcare providers and hospitals all over the US. The pediatric patients that they had tested positive for rhinovirus or enterovirus, included is enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). Pediatric acute respiratory illness sentinel surveillance sites have also said that the data shows higher proportion of children with EV-D68 positivity compared to what they’ve seen in the past years.

A data analysis and NBC News reported that there were 84 EV-D68 cases from the months of March to August. The CDC also made a comparison from previous years and identified 6 cases 2019, 30 in 2020, and 16 in 2021. As of now, EV-D68 was seen in 40 states and in the District of Columbia. The CDC said that there may have been relative lower case counts in the past two years because of the health measures taken during the pandemic. This was when people were vigilant with wearing masks.

Oftentimes, EV-D68 brings about respiratory illness that come with mild cold-like symptoms. In some cases, this can also be more severe. Common symptoms that they’ve seen from children hospitalized with EV-D68 are the following: cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing. As for half of the reported cases, they also had fever.

For some reported instances, the infection lead to acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). This is a rare but serious neurologic complication that comes with disabling limb weakness, as stated by the CDC. The condition shares some similarities with polio. An example would be lesions in the spinal cord area, which is called gray matter. This brings inflammation and in some cases, leads to permanent paralysis.

As of September of this year, experts who did thorough research on this were able to confirme 13 AFM cases in the U.S, this year out of 33 reports who had been investigated.

Enterovirus D68 is much like the rhinovirus where it typically starts with common cold-type symptoms,” said Matthew Vogt, MD. He is assistant professor in the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He spoke in a press release and also shared, “Right when those symptoms start to get better, within five days or so, then weakness will begin to appear. It’s highly variable. The weakness can range from subtle to paralysis of every muscle in the body.”

Aside from feeling weakness in the arm and leg, symptoms you need to be mindful of are pain in the neck, back, arms, or legs. They may also experience difficulty in swallowing or their speech becomes slurred; they may also have difficulty moving their eyes or their eyelids or face are staring to droop or feel weak. If you notice any of the abovementioned symptoms, it’s advised that you seek medical advice immediately.

In summer and fall of 2014, around 1,400 Americans, majority of whom were children, were diagnosed with EV-D68. Many of the patients reported having asthma or have a history of wheezing. This specific outbreak made the medical experts more aware of EV-D68-associated illness. This was when they started to grow and push the national surveillance team.

The CDC has since been urging the healthcare providers to think about EV-D68 as a possible cause of any acute, severe respiratory illness (whether fever has been reported or not) in children. They have also  urged that steps are taken to ensure that these cases are reported to the federal government. The health agency also said that adults may be infected with EV-D68, but it is assumed to be more common in those who suffer from underlying conditions. As for its diagnosis, this is only possible by conducting specific lab tests on specimens that are taken from the nose and throat, or blood.

Right now, they don’t have vaccines or treatments available for rhinovirus or enterovirus, included on the list is EV-D68. Doctors often push for supportive care to help alleviate symptoms. What would help patients here is taking over-the-counter medication to reduce pain or discomfort and lower fever. As for the more severe cases, intensive care is required.

Just like the normal flu and most respiratory illnesses, good hand hygiene is best recommended here to avoid getting sick. This is also the best defense against enterovirus. Connecticut health officials  recommend that you do the following to avoid getting sick:

  • Washing your hands as often as possible and use soap and water for 20 seconds. This is especially when you change your child’s diapers.
  • Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially when you haven’t washed your hands beforehand.
  • Try not to kiss, hug, and share cups or eating utensils with others who aren’t feeling well.
  • Always disinfect touched surfaces, as well as toys and doorknobs. Be more vigilant in doing this when someone at home is sick.