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Not good: Several dozen children in twenty-two U.S. states have been struck by a new polio-like virus that causes paralysis.
Sixty-two AFM cases in 22 states have been confirmed in recent weeks, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta said at a news conference today; 65 more are under investigation.
Similar waves occurred in 2014 and 2016, and scientists have fingered a relative of the poliovirus, called enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), as a possible culprit. But the evidence isn’t conclusive yet, and it’s unclear why the virus would only paralyze a small minority of children it infects. Solving these mysteries is urgent because the paralysis can be severe and irreversible. AFM is “pretty rare, but it’s pretty devastating,” says Priya Duggal, a genetic epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, who’s studying whether some patients may have a genetic vulnerability to the virus. “And it appears that it’s cyclical. It’s not going away.”
It appears that in most cases the virus simply causes cold-like symptoms that go away like a cold. In a few cases, however, it produces paralysis.