More than 100 children from across the country have been stricken with polio-like paralysis since August 2014, but doctors still haven't been able to figure out what's causing the outbreak.
"[I]t’s a medical mystery,” Mary Anne Jackson, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, said.
Reports of the illness mostly began surfacing around the time enterovirus D68, a severe respiratory condition, broke out among hundreds of children nationwide, the Kansas City Star reported.
“It was the largest outbreak of its type ever reported in the world,” Jackson said of the respiratory virus that swept through 33 states.
Considering the mystery surrounding paralysis cases, the likes of which have rarely been witnessed, doctors thought the enterovirus D68 outbreak had provided them with an important lead. Could all those bizarre paralysis cases actually be linked to the respiratory infections?
Researchers looked into the possibility but did not find any link between the two conditions.
“The specific causes of this illness are still under investigation,” the Centers for Disease Control said in a report earlier this month. However, it said the cases are most similar to the enteroviruses, adenoviruses, West Nile viruses and Herpes viruses. The CDC is referring to the paralysis cases as "acute flaccid myelitis" for now.
So far, there are more than 100 reported cases of the condition. One of those cases is 13-year-old Billy Sticklen from Joplin, Missouri. Sticklen, who suffered from a respiratory infection back in September, recalled not being able to move his arms just two weeks after the breathing issue subsided.
Stricklen was taken by ambulance to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, where he stayed from mid-September until Christmas Eve. Today, Stricklen's condition seems to be improving as WDAF-TV shows him in a pool using dumbbells. The 13-year-old Missouri teen is among the two-thirds of affected patients who have shown improvements since falling ill. Only one patient has made a full recovery.
As doctors use what little knowledge they have to treat the medical mystery, physicians at Children's Mercy in Kansas City are continuing to work with officials at the CDC in Atlanta to determine the source of the illness. The Star reported that they're looking at blood serum samples from 500 toddlers, children, teenagers and adults from 2012 with the hopes of determining the extent to which enterovirus D68 circulated before the paralysis outbreak.
But even with new research now underway, Jackson admits there's still a long way to go until this mystery is fully solved.
“This is just the beginning of the story,” Jackson said.
(H/T: Kansas City Star)
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