Virus warning: Cases of dangerous EV-D68 on the rise in the US — can paralyse children

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First recorded in California back in 1962 — and originally considered rare — enterovirus D68 has seen an upswing in case numbers since 2001. According to CDC experts, most cases of EV-D68 cause no symptoms or only mild ones like aches, coughing, a runny nose and sneezing. Fever is reported in around half of all cases. However, in rare cases, the virus is believed to affect the spinal cord, leading to weakened muscles and sometimes paralysis in a condition known as “acute flaccid myelitis”. While this condition is thought to have various other causes, 90 percent of known cases have been observed in young children.

Enterovirus D68, the CDC explained, spreads “when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches a surface that is then touched by others.”

They added: “In general, infants, children and teenagers are most likely to get infected with enteroviruses and become ill.

“That’s because they do not yet have immunity from previous exposure to these viruses.

“Adults can get infected with enteroviruses, but they are more likely to have no symptoms or mild symptoms.”

The CDC has advised doctors in the US to consider EV-D68 as a possible cause when any children present with an acute, severe respiratory illness, with or without fever.

The public, meanwhile, has been encouraged to take basic precautions to protect against EV-D68 and other respiratory viruses.

These include regular handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, avoiding close contact with the sick and staying at home when feeling unwell.

There are presently no vaccines available to protect against infection with EV-D68 — however, staying up-to-date on Covid boosters and flu shots can help stop complications from viral illnesses.

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While historic cases of EV-D68 have primarily been confined to the United States, outbreaks here on the other side of the pond have been known.

As Public Health England explains: “In August 2014, the United States of America (USA) and Canada reported an increase in detections of EV-D68 associated with cases of severe respiratory illness and cases of unexplained neurological illness.

“In response, UK and European surveillance of EV-D68 was enhanced and in 2014 and 2015; 56 and 14 cases, respectively, were detected in the UK.”

They added that in 2018, “68 cases of laboratory confirmed EV-D68 [were] diagnosed by the national reference laboratories in England and Wales.”

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