Are Colorado limb weakness cases connected with Enterovirus 68?

AURORA, Colo. - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating whether limb weakness and paralysis in nine children in Colorado could be connected to the far-reaching outbreak of the respiratory disease Enterovirus 68.

All of the children had reported having a respiratory virus before showing symptoms of limb weakness.

Six of the eight children tested were found to be positive for a rhinovirus or enterovirus and four of those cases were found to be the Enterovirus 68. The other two cases were still pending.

Dr. Larry Wolk, the chief medical officer and executive director for Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the children affected range in age from one to 18, with an average age of 10.

"It is a spectrum of arm or leg weakness that can be as mild as weakness or as severe as paralysis," Wolk said. "What ties them all together though are findings of spots or lesions in the grey matter of the spinal cord on MRI scans."

Medical officials have not determined whether the Enterovirus 68 virus caused the neurological symptoms, but the CDC is asking other medical workers to report any similar cases as the outbreak continues to spread throughout the U.S.

The road to recovery for Simon Humphrey, 13, has been a long and windy one.

"When I was going to urgent care, I was scared because I could feel myself not being able to stay awake," he said.

Simon has been battling Enterovirus 68 for weeks, only returning to school a few days ago.

"I couldn't move my legs," he said. "The muscles in my arms could barely lift the weight of my hands."

Fortunately, Simon's limb weakness was only temporary.

"It is another one of those things, life can throw things at you," said Debra Johnson, Simon's mom. "That's hopefully done now. Maybe it had something to do with his asthma history."

Simon was treated at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, in Denver.

Meanwhile, Doctors at Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora say parents should remain ultra-aware of respiratory illnesses at this point.

"It's really important for parents not to panic," said Dr. Christine Nyquist, an infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital. "They should do what they can for their children when they have an illness, and get help when they don't know what's going on."

Whether the paralysis is permanent is still unclear.

"There's comfort in knowing that he is now immune from the virus," said Debra Johnson.

Enterovirus 68 has been reported in at least 40 states and confirmed in at least 277 people, according to the CDC. However, since symptoms of the virus, which can include coughing, fever and runny nose, can appear mild, the number of those infected could be exponentially larger than what has been reported.

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