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2014 Science News: Enterovirus

Non-polio EV-D68 kills 12 and sickens hundreds across 47 states


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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), enteroviruses classified as “non-polio“ are quite common, causing up to 15 million infections and tens of thousands of hospitalizations a year. This year, starting in the middle of August, a specific type of enterovirus, EV-D68, was the culprit behind a nationwide outbreak of severe respiratory illness. Numbers from the CDC through Nov. 20, 2014 show a total of 1,121 people in 47 states and the District of Columbia with respiratory illness caused by EV-D68. Additionally, EV-D68 was present in 12 patients who died during this timeframe, including the first confirmed EV-D68 death: a 4-year-old New Jersey boy who died on Sept. 25.

First identified in 1962, EV-D68 is one of more than 100 non-polio enteroviruses. Symptoms can include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, body/muscle aches, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Children and young adults are the most affected, and those with an underlying respiratory disease, such as asthma, are the most vulnerable. As with most viruses, your best defense is excellent personal hygiene: hand washing, cleaning surfaces, and covering your cough.

As of Oct. 14, the CDC is using a new lab test for detecting EV-D68 that allows for efficient processing of specimens and a quick turnaround for reporting results. They are also investigating 90 cases of muscle weakness and paralysis—“acute flaccid myelitis“—in patients 21 years and younger across 32 states who had some type of respiratory illness to see if there is a link with EV-D68.

by Catherine McNiff
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