Colorado health officials are investigating nine cases of illness in children who are experiencing symptoms of weakness in muscles or in some cases, paralysis. It is suspected that the illnesses are a result of the same virus that is behind a severe respiratory illness spreading over the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have sent an alert out to physicians about the illness, which has symptoms similar to polio.They stated that Enterovirus 68 had showed up in four of the eight sick children in Colorado who went through a specific medical test, but the position of the ninth case was not clear.
The virus is able to cause paralysis, but this is a symptom which other microorganisms can also bring about. This ambiguity has left health officials unsure as to whether the virus was the cause of the children’s arm and leg weaknesses, or it just happened to be another sort of bacteria they coincidentally picked up. Dr. Jane Seward of the CDC explained that was why the center needed more information and they wanted doctors to report any sort of comparable cases. All of these occurrences have happened within the past two months at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado in Aurora, and the majority of youngsters are from the Denver, Colorado region. A hospital spokesperson stated that the children’s’ families did not want to speak to the news media.
All of the children suffered from fevers and respiratory illnesses around two weeks before they came down with different degrees of limb weakness. None of them appeared to have weak immune systems or any other disorders that could have predisposed them to the severe illnesses, but all their cases are still being examined. Investigators do not believe they have polio because eight of the nine Colorado children are up to date on their polio vaccinations. However, it is unknown if the paralysis or weakness in the limbs will be short-term or be something that is long-lasting.
These cases come amidst an uncommon wave of severe respiratory sicknesses from Enterovirus 68. The virus was first identified in 1962 and has caused outbreaks in parts of Pennsylvania and Georgia in 2009 and Arizona in 2010. However, the Colorado Health Department stated that due to the fact that it has never been routinely tested for, it is quite possible that the virus has spread around in other years but was never distinguished from routine colds caused by other microbes.
Enterovirus 68 has received a lot of attention this year because it has been linked to hundreds of severe infections. Starting in August, a large number of sick children began to enter hospitals in Missouri and Illinois. They were having extreme trouble breathing and some needed oxygen, others having to have more urgent care such as breathing machines. Many of the youngsters, but not all of them, had suffered from asthma before they fell ill.
The CDC has been testing a restricted number of samples from some of the sickest children around the country, and on Thursday reported that nearly 280 people in 40 states and the District of Columbia had Enterovirus 68. No one has died from the virus at the present time, but Seward said there are 15 still being investigated.
Paralysis is a very uncommon complication of Enterovirus 68 infection, but with so many cases of the virus showing up this year, it may not be so surprising to see the complication happen. The CDC wants all doctors to report about any patients who are 21 years of age or younger, come down with limb weakness and have an MRI exam that shows abnormalities in the nerve tissue in the spinal cord. Seward explained that an exam which showed bacteria in the fluid of the child’s spine could be enough evidence to show that the virus was behind the paralysis. Regrettably, lab tests of the fluid in the spine many times fail to find germs like Enterovirus 68, even if they are in there. Hopefully, health officials will be able to diagnosis the nine cases of weakness in muscles or paralysis in the children from Colorado.
By Kimberly Ruble