(RxWiki News) Cases of respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) have been popping up all over the US. Health officials are now looking into whether the virus might be tied to limb weakness and, in some cases, paralysis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with Colorado health officials to investigate nine children who were hospitalized with neurological symptoms that included muscle weakness and paralysis. Four of the children tested positive for EV-D68.
EV-D68 can lead to serious breathing problems, especially in children with asthma or other respiratory issues. In many cases, though, symptoms are mild and include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, and muscle and body aches.
It is unclear whether the neurological symptoms seen in the nine Colorado children were tied to EV-D68. The possible link between these neurological problems and the ongoing nationwide outbreak of EV-D68 is part of the CDC's current investigation.
Test results for West Nile virus and polio, which are known to lead to similar neurological symptoms, have been negative so far.
According to Steven Davis, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor Medical Center at Irving, the link between EV-D68 and paralysis symptoms is a "possible rare association." However, he did call it worrisome.
The CDC is asking doctors to watch for young patients with acute onset of limb weakness or with MRI showing lesions on the gray matter of the spinal cord. These patients should be reported to state and local health departments, says the CDC.
As of Sept. 26, EV-D68 has been confirmed in 277 people in 40 states and Washington, D.C. All but one of these cases have been in children.
"Most persons recover completely from the enterovirus D68 respiratory illness," Dr. Davis told dailyRx News. "The natural history of the neurological illness that seems to be associated with enterovirus D68 is still being studied closely."
To protect against EV-D68 infection, the CDC recommends regularly washing hands with soap and water; avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; disinfecting frequently touched surfaces; and avoiding kissing, hugging and sharing utensils with people who are sick.