The CDC is investigating whether recently reported cases of limb paralysis in several Denver-area children are linked to the spread of Enterovirus 68, the respiratory illness behind a far reaching outbreak that has been reported in 40 states.
Officials released a statement confirming that nine children had suffered a neurologic illness that led to limb weakness or paralysis, ABC News reports. Of the nine children afflicted, four tested positive for the presence of Enterovirus 68, while two cases were pending results, and two others tested positive for a different rhinovirus or enterovirus. All of the children reported symptoms of a respiratory illness before showing signs of paralysis.
While officials are unsure whether or not Enterovirus 68 caused the paralysis, there are common factors among the patients, according to Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer and executive director for Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Here’s how to know if you’ve got enterovirus, and what you should do about it http://t.co/8zjbenYead pic.twitter.com/GYysEYmnce
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 27, 2014
“It is a spectrum of arm or leg weakness that can be as mild weakness or as severe as paralysis,” Wolk noted. “What ties them all together though are findings of spots or lesions in the grey matter of the spinal cord on MRI scans.”
The children affected range in age between one and 18, according to Wolk, with and average age of 10. It is unclear whether the paralysis will be temporary, or long-lasting, The Daily Mail reports. None of the children had weak or compromised immune systems that would predispose them to severe illness.
Enteroviruses aren’t uncommon, as The Inquisitr has previously noted, although this outbreak has garnered widespread attention after being linked to hundreds of severe illnesses. Many, but not all, of the children impacted by Enterovirus 68 have been asthmatic, yet even healthy children have required oxygen and breathing assistance in some cases.
Rare respiratory illness now reported in more than half of U.S. states. http://t.co/5ncpk4t3ox pic.twitter.com/GwLzIuTsPr
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) September 23, 2014
No deaths have been linked to the enterovirus outbreak so far and tests for viruses that could cause paralysis like West Nile and Polio have come back negative. The afflicted children did show signs of an infection in their spinal fluid but doctors found no evidence of a specific virus in the fluid.
Dr. William Schaffner, of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, asserted that more research is required in order to ascertain the cause of the paralysis.
“From time to time other Enteroviruses can behave very sporadically like the polio virus,” he said. “The leading candidate is indeed this Enterovirus D-68. Having said that, further investigations are going on with the children.”
The CDC is asking medical workers to report any similar cases, so that they can determine the scope of the paralysis issue, and its possible connection to Enterovirus 68.
[Image via NPR]