California Kids Virus Causing Paralysis

California Kids Virus Causing Paralysis


A new virus is affecting patients in extreme ways. One patient can seem primarily unharmed from the infection while another patient can be left paralyzed, possibly for life. This virus has emerged in California.

Monday, the University of California San Francisco made the announcement that the genetic signature of the virus, enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), has been found to be the start of the cause. Half of the children in California and Colorado who have been diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, meaning, unexplained and sudden muscle weakness and paralysis.

Researchers from the California University found that the paralyzing symptoms only happen in a small number of children who get the virus. Two children from the same family got the virus, only one has become paralyzed. This means that the virus and the biological make-up of the patient will determine which virus the child gets according to Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, director of UCSF-Abbott Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center.

None of the children have yet to make a full recovery so it is imperative the researchers keep looking into this new strain of EV-D68 and its ability to cause paralysis. There was a study from 2012-2014 concerning a respiratory virus. In the study, there were 16 children from California, 80 percent of those children got an upper respiratory infection six days before the spinal cord became inflamed, thus causing the paralysis.

There is no way to tell at this point if the paralysis is permanent. Many of the children are able to move their feet but cannot move other parts of their bodies at this point. It is also unknown if physical therapy will be a part of the treatment process.

This new viral strain of D68 is referred to as “B1.” It made its appearance four years ago, in California, and its mutations are close to polio symptoms. It is in the same biological genus as Polio.

New research bolsters the possibility of the connection between virus, D68 (B1), and paralysis in children in California and Colorado in the years between 2012 and 2014. The genetic signature of B1, which is a particular type of enterovirus D68, was found in one-half of the kids who got acute flaccid myelitis. This is the complication of the sudden onset of muscle weakness and paralysis. No other agent could duplicate the same symptoms.

October 2014, a total of 43 cases of respiratory virus, D68, went across California. In the middle of this outbreak, doctors across the nation, saw a rising number of D68 cases, causing leg or arm weakness, or total paralysis in the children. These children had to be placed on ventilators. Since August 2014, there have been 115 children in 34 states that have been paralyzed by the virus.

Since June 2012, researchers from UCSF, inspected genetic sequences of enterovirus D68 from 25 paralyzed children. 16 of the children were treated at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, California or they were diagnosed by the Department of Public Health in California. The viruses in the children are genetically similar, sharing mutations like the ones in the poliovirus genome. The mutations are also similar to EV-D70, a different nerve-damaging virus.

The discovery shows that the B1 strain does not affect each patient the same, it depends on the individual’s biology. However, evidence of D70 is not conclusive, as there has been no enterovirus found in and patients’ spinal fluid. Cases of the virus continues to grow and scientists are working on a cure or a vaccine, a treatment that will help these sick kids in California before the virus spreads to other states.

By Jeanette Smith


CBS San Francisco


California Healthline

Photo courtesy of Michael Fraley – Flickr License