12th child has paralysis-like symptoms; experts work hard to find cause

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DENVER -- Another child in the Denver-metro area is faced with muscle weakness after coming down with a respiratory virus. That makes 12 cases of paralysis-like symptoms being treated in the state.

As the CDC works to find a link, the Colorado Department of Health & Environment says it’s not easy. That’s partially because only four of the 12 tested positive for Enterovirus D-68.

Compared to this time last year, Children’s Hospital Colorado is seeing a 12-15 percent increase in respiratory admissions; that’s more than 4,600 patients. Most patients are treated and immediately released, but a dozen are dealing with a rare complication: muscle weakness.

Dr. Teri Schreiner at Children’s said, "Most of them have had both weakness of one or more limbs as well as weakness of the facial muscle."

Dr. Lisa Miller, an epidemiologist at the Colorado Dept. of Public Health & Environment said, "We really still don't know the cause for this cluster of neurological illness."

One mother, who wanted to remain anonymous, explained her daughter’s symptoms, "I kept watching her and realized she was really having trouble lifting her arm and her grip seemed weak."

Enterovirus D-68 is being looked at, but with only 4 of 12 paralysis-like cases testing positive for the virus, doctors are still trying to find a solid link. What they do know is these symptoms are being caused by inflammation of the spinal cord. Dr. Miller said, "If we found the virus in the cerebrospinal fluid, or that fluid around the spine, that would be better evidence that it was actually caused by a specific virus."

Enterovirus cannot be treated with antibiotics so the best thing is practicing prevention, like hand washing.

There is good news to report. The Colorado Dept. of Public Health & Environment said it appears the virus peaked in mid-September and is slowing down.

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