A Virus That Can Cause Polio-Like Paralysis in Children Has Returned

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Author: Cowell Davis

Pediatricians and senior health officials are expressing concern about an increase in the activity of a common virus that can cause a disease similar to polio in young children. The infection classified as Enterovirus (EV-D68) is among the virus that periodically infect humans and spread fast. 

Acute flaccid myelitis, also known as AFM, is a progressive form of paralysis that infrequently affects children and causes limb weakness. 

EV-D68 seems to be on the rise again following a pandemic-related break. Health officials are worried that it may portend the emergence of further AFM cases.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a warning on Friday about enterovirus D68. The disease is known to cause respiratory infection in children with mild symptoms but can become severe. 

The polio virus is a member of the big enterovirus family. EV-D68 and poliovirus can infect the neurological system and result in muscle weakness.

Enterovirus Infection (EV-D68) Causes and symptoms

EV-D68 is among the viruses that causes  common cold in children. The virus is known to induce a paralytic syndrome in 0.1% of the victim, which is common with poliovirus. 

Although AFM is still a serious complication, it is proven that EV-D68 recently underwent a mutation that makes it resemble polio with the chances of causing it. 

The major symptoms of AFM are abrupt limb weakness. However, some people experience facial paralysis, slurred speech, pain in the limb, and back pain. 

In the most extreme circumstances, some people experience life-threatening paralysis and respiratory failure. However, lifelong paralysis seems to be part of the condition.

AFM is likely caused by enterovirus. Nonetheless, the rise in incidence which has been observed since at least 2014 is strongly linked to EV-D68 outbreaks.

These EV-D68 and AFM epidemics have been occurring every two years for the last ten years, most likely as a result of herd immunity declining.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, caused this pattern to change, which would have indicated a further AFM outbreak in 2020.

There had been nearly 700 Confirmed Cases

The CDC has reported nearly 700 confirmed cases since it started in 2014. There were perhaps 150 to 200 cases of AFM during the previous outbreak. 

Nonetheless, only 13 cases have been recorded so far in 2022. 

The illness often manifests weeks after mild cold symptoms. Earlier epidemics of AFM have also occurred following outbreaks of EV-D68. Continued lookout for AFM in the upcoming weeks will be crucial, the CDC warns in its recommendation, urging physicians to be on the alert for the illness.


This summer, there have been some unwelcome returns of the infectious poliovirus to the United States. 

The virus was discovered in the state’s wastewater after paralytic polio struck a young person in July. The incident may cause the spread of the diseases in the nearest future. 

However, the virus may not have traveled too far because of the high vaccination rate (around 92% countrywide). However, it still poses a risk to those who have not received the vaccine, and its reemergence could jeopardize efforts to eradicate polio as a deadly disease worldwide.

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