Mysterious Childhood Paralysis Linked to a Cold Virus

March 31, 2015 12:34 AM

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Last year, hundreds of children across the country got sick with what looked like a common cold. Nothing to worry about: body aches, runny nose, coughing and sneezing. But then, mysteriously, a handful of those kids became paralyzed—first, just in an arm or a leg, and then spreading so far that some children needed a ventilator to breathe. The CDC reports that since August 2014, at least 115 children in 34 states have developed unexplained muscle weakness or paralysis, which they’re now calling acute flaccid myelitis. Doctors have urgently been hunting down the origin of this strange illness for over half a year, and now they think they’ve finally identified the culprit: enterovirus D68.

Enterovirus D68 has been around for decades—it was first identified in California in 1962, and it’s one of many viral strains to blame for the common cold. It also belongs to the same genus as poliovirus, an infectious, nerve-damaging pathogen that can cause paralysis. But up until 2012, EV-D68 had ...

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