Chasing the virus behind surging polio-like illness

polio
Quinton Hill, 7, lost movement in one arm in September due to a mysterious syndrome known as acute flaccid myelitis. Image credit: Hill family / TNS

[Fall 2014] Kevin Messacar, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Colorado, started seeing a wave of children with inexplicable paralysis. All of them shared the same story. One day, they had a cold. The next, they couldn’t move an arm or a leg. In some children, the paralysis was relatively mild, but others had to be supported with ventilators and feeding tubes after they stopped being able to breathe or swallow on their own.

The condition looked remarkably like polio—the viral disease that is on the verge of being eradicated worldwide. But none of the kids tested positive for poliovirus. Instead, their condition was given a new name: acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

AFM is a new term, but not a new syndrome. Its package of symptoms can be caused by a wide range of factors, [including] poliovirus, West Nile virus, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

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One particular enterovirus, known as EV-D68, has emerged as the lead suspect.

But it’s not in every patient. So far, the CDC has only found the virus in the spinal fluid of a single child, and in fewer than half of the stool samples or nasal swabs it tested. “I am frustrated that, despite all of our efforts, we haven’t been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness,” [CDC director Nancy Messonnier said.]

Read full, original post: The Main Suspect Behind an Ominous Spike in a Polio-like Illness

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