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Doctors Puzzled Over 100 Cases of Paralysis in U.S. Children

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In the recent months more than 100 cases of paralysis in children have been reported in the U.S., which has left doctors puzzled.

Over 100 young adults and children in the U.S. have been afflicted with a mysterious paralysis since August 2014. Many children reported to have fever before they lost strength in one or more limbs. Researchers reveal that even though the exact cause of paralysis in not known it may be linked to the enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).

A prior study suggests that EV-D68 may be responsible for the paralysis in children as it was found in nasal swabs from 8 of 41 mysterious paralysis patients. A recent study also suggests that EV-D68 may have a link to the mysterious paralysis but it does not have confirmed evidence.

For now, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is referring to the illness cases as "acute flaccid myelitis."

In 1962, the EV-D68 was initially discovered in California. It has symptoms such as muscle ache, fever and runny nose similar to that of common cold. It mainly affects a person's respiratory system. However, it is not confirmed if it can also cause paralysis. Reports suggest that some children who were inflicted with the paralysis have also recovered.

"Small numbers of EV-D68 have been reported regularly to CDC since 1987. However, during 2014 the number of people reported with confirmed EV-D68 infection was much greater than that reported in previous years. We can't predict whether EV-D68 will be a common type of enterovirus detected in future seasons," per CDC.

Medical experts suggest that there are no known treatments or vaccines for the infections caused by EV-D68. Many doctors and hospitals in the U.S. can successfully test for enteroviruses; however, only a few of them can test for enterovirus EV-D68.

Over 1,000 EV-D68 cases were reported till October 2014. Fall and summer are the time when people are highly likely to be infected with EV-D68. People with weak immune system and children are more susceptible to EV-D68.

It is not just the U.S. where cases of the virus accompanied with paralysis have been reported. Such cases have also been reported in Canada but not elsewhere.

Physical therapy is being used to treat the mysterious paralysis. Doctors and hospitals remain unclear about the long-term prognosis of the illness as most patients have barely shown improvements.

CDC suggests that the virus can spread if a person comes in contact with the respiratory secretions of the infected person. The CDC recommends that caregivers and family members should avoid close contact with the patient. The CDC also recommends washing the hands frequently to avoid getting the infection. 

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