Enterovirus D68, otherwise classified as EV-D68, has been spreading throughout the U.S. and may be causing paralysis in children located in Colorado. Though it is too early to connect the virus to symptoms of paralysis, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is keeping a close eye on cases involving at least 10 children near the Denver area. CNN reported cerebrospinal fluid tests the children underwent had come back negative for enterovirus, and other viruses, although tests from the six of the eight children’s nasal passages had come back positive for some form of enterovirus.
CNN stated enterovirus is part of the Picornaviridae family, which includes poliovirus and rhinovirus as well. According to the CDC, enteroviruses are common during the end of summer and beginning of fall period and has symptoms related to the common cold. More serious enteroviruses, however, can cause hand, foot, and mouth disease, as well as paralysis, encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, and even a viral meningitis, according to CNN.
CDC spokesman, Tom Skinner had reportedly said the CDC is unsure whether an association exists between the current EV-D68 virus spreading around the nation and the paralysis conditions children in Colorado are experiencing. ABC News reported a 13-year-old boy named Humphrey had said he couldn’t move his legs and that his arms could barely lift his hands. He was diagnosed with EV-D68.
ABC News reported on infectious disease expert, Dr. William Schaffner from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine located in Nashville Tennesee. Dr. Schaffner had stated the virus could be infecting the central nervous system through the spinal cord. Cells located in this area could be damaged by the virus and cause paralysis, the doctor had noted.
Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer and director of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment noted myelitis, an infection of gray matter in the spinal cord, can occur with certain viral infections. He said that “paralysis is rare but could be permanent.” The Washington Post stated CDC had alerted doctors to be aware of large lesions in this area if they conduct magnetic resonance imaging, or an MRI.
Enterovirus D68 could be causing paralysis in children, but the link is not too certain. The virus has been spreading around the U.S. to 277 and possibly more who have been reported sick across 40 states. It has also reportedly caused major breathing problems with children who have asthma.
CNN stated that Children’s Hospital in Colorado has treated over 4,000 cases of children with severe respiratory symptoms since August 18. Around 10 percent had to be admitted according to Dr. Chris Nyquist, the medical director of the department of Infection Prevention and Control.
So far, health officials do not believe the paralysis is caused by the polio virus, which is known to cause paralysis. CNN reported that eight of the 10 children are up to date on polio vaccinations. FOX News stated that Stanford University researchers had identified polio-like illnesses in 20 children living in California earlier this year, however. Two of the children had also tested positive for EV-D68.
FOX News also stated health officials know enteroviruses can cause paralysis. Reports were published years ago when two people reportedly had the virus found in their spinal fluid. Even so, FOX News also reported that Dr. Jane Seward of CDC had said EV-D68 is hard to identify in lab tests of spinal fluid.
The Washington Post stated all the children in Colorado had experienced fever and breathing problems before developing symptoms of paralysis. Dr. Wolk reportedly said none of them have fully recovered from these symptoms yet, either. According to FOX News, Dr. Wolk also indicated, “Paralysis is a rare complication of enterovirus 68 infection.” Perhaps, then, enterovirus D68 is causing paralysis in children, though it is still not 100 percent certain.
By Liz Pimentel
Photo of Denver Children’s Hospital courtesy of Thechildrenshospital