Mysterious Enterovirus Linked to Paralysis in Kids

The enterovirus attacks the respiratory system. Children who have it usually have difficulty breathing, a severe cough or wheezing. However, a new symptom is now being linked to the virus: paralysis.
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Article Summary: 
The enterovirus attacks the respiratory system. Children who have it usually have difficulty breathing, a severe cough or wheezing. However, a new symptom is now being linked to the virus: paralysis.
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Parents across the country are rushing their children to the emergency room because of a virus that may have claimed the life of a 4-year-old New Jersey boy. Called Enterovirus D-68, it's been reported in nearly every state.

Enterovirus D-68 attacks the respiratory system. Symptoms of children admitted to the hospital with the virus include coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Now a new symptom is being linked to Enterovirus D-68: paralysis.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert, explains how it happens.

"In a circumstance like that, the virus actually infects the central nervous system, the spinal cord, causes injury to some of the cells and that's what causes the paralysis," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating whether Enterovirus D-68 can lead to paralysis. Their findings should be released next week.

Doctors say most children suffering from difficulty moving their limbs in association with the virus should regain movement, but in rare cases may not.

Medical staff at Children's Hospital Colorado admitted 10 children who are having difficulty moving their arms and legs.

Dr. Sam Dominguez says it appears the paralysis is linked to the virus.

"Most of these cases are preceded about a week before with a respiratory illness and then about a week later they have the onset of their neurological symptoms," he said.

The best protection against this and all viruses is frequent, thorough hand washing. That means lathering your hands for a full 20 seconds, about the time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday Song" twice. If there's no soap and water around, hand sanitizer and hand wipes are a good substitute.

The reason keeping your hands clean is so important is because viruses can live on hard surfaces, like door knobs, remote controls and keyboards, for up to two days.

When we touch contaminated surfaces, the virus then transfers to our hands. If we don't wash off the virus, it can enter our body in a number of ways, such as through food we handle or when we touch our eyes, nose, mouth or even open cuts.

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