A MYSTERIOUS new disease is afflicting children in the United States. It starts as a cold — but ends as weakness and paralysis. Does polio have a twin? Or are several new, potentially debilitating, viruses on the loose?
In the past 12 months, more than 118 children across 34 US states have been reported with a condition called “acute flaccid myelitis”.
It’s a condition that seems to start out as a respiratory infection like a serous bout of the common cold.
In these cases the muscle pain doesn’t go away. Then they lose their strength in their arms and legs.
While such symptoms are enough to panic any parent, disease experts say the cause does not appear to be particularly infectious.
But the number of cases seeking hospitalization in the US has raised eyebrows.
Early suspicions have fallen on the viruses which belong to the family we know as the common cold, the rhinoviruses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have named enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) as the chief suspect.
But new figures show only 20 per cent of the known cases in the US tested positive for D68 — and it isn’t certain if this virus is linked to the paralysis anyway.
Enterovirus C105 is something new. It was first detected in patients from Peru and the Republic of Congo in 2010. The Congo case also suffered paralysis.
It’s now thought to be circulating worldwide.
Dr Turner says his six-year-old patient may simply be the first known case in the US because the C105 virus is particularly hard to detect.
Dr Senanayake says its ties to polio makes guilt by association understandable.
What makes the polio virus different — and deadly — is that it is highly contagious. A century ago, polio paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children every year. But it infected many more.
Are these immigrant children that are coming to the U.S. receiving vaccinations that are mutating with a normally harmless virus into a new virulent strain?