NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There has been a disturbing development in the nationwide outbreak involving the rare enterovirus D68. A handful of children have now developed polio-like symptoms of muscle weakness or paralysis.
The virus, which has caused an outbreak of respiratory infections across the country, is one member of a very large group of viruses that includes the polio virus, CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported on Monday.
And although ev-68 has not been known to cause paralysis before, health officials are looking closely at this new development.
It was a worrisome discovery at Children’s Hospital in Denver that has health officials sending a nationwide alert. Over the last six weeks, nine children have developed polio-like symptoms.
The Colorado children have all shown muscle or limb weakness and polio-like symptoms. Of those nine children, four tested positive for ev-68 and one case was unclear.
It’s not clear whether the paralysis is permanent.
“Some of these children are as young as 1 year of age, so it’s difficult to tell whether or not it’s just a weakness or a paralysis. We don’t know yet from the doctor’s at Children’s whether or not this would be reversible or whether or not this is permanent,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health.
The virus is causing severe respiratory illness across the country. So far there have been 277 confirmed cases across 40 states, including in New York State and New York City.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed three cases from the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, bringing the total in the state to at least 10.
Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, which reported the first Connecticut case earlier this month, said it has seven confirmed cases.
As for the polio-like symptoms, health officials cannot say for certain if they are caused by the virus.
“We don’t know yet whether some variant or some mutation could have occurred. That will depend on more specific information to see if there’s anything unusual about any of the strains that might be out there,” said Dr. Stephen Morse of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.
Morse said it is possible ev-68 could have caused paralysis before but it was never noticed because there has never been such a large outbreak. So the CDC has alerted hospitals to report any similar cases.
Symptoms of ev-68 include fever, cough, wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Importantly, eight of the nine children in Colorado were immunized against polio. So far there have not been any polio-like cases reported in New York State, and neither the city nor state is reporting case numbers because the health departments said it doesn’t change treatment or prevention.
There are no specific treatments for the virus, but there are things you can do to protect yourself and others:
– Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
– Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
– Avoid kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
– Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
It’s also very important to keep sick kids home to keep from spreading the virus even further, Gomez reported.
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