In DepthInfectious Diseases

Outbreaks of poliolike disease pose a puzzle

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Science  19 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6412, pp. 277
DOI: 10.1126/science.362.6412.277

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Summary

Does a virus that usually causes mild cold symptoms sometimes paralyze children? That's the question facing scientists again this fall, after dozens of previously healthy kids across the United States suddenly lost muscle control in their arms or legs, a condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) that eerily resembles polio. Sixty-two AFM cases in 22 states have been confirmed in recent weeks, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said at a news conference on 16 October; 65 more are under investigation. Similar waves occurred in 2014 and 2016, and scientists have fingered a relative of the poliovirus, called enterovirus 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.