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[Above image: a non-polio enterovirus as seen under a microscope]
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) terms the current measles outbreak in the U.S. as “large multi-state outbreak.” Discussion has permeated everywhere from traditional news media to commentary and pop culture websites.
At 141 cases and growing, the incidence of measles is widely considered serious enough to prompt discussions about strengthening laws and changing policies. Reaction has ranged from alarmed to near-hysterical.
Yet commensurate attention has not been paid to a much more widespread and mysterious infectious disease outbreak in the U.S.: one that also originated in California. In contrast to the measles outbreak, which so far has no associated deaths, this outbreak has claimed 14 lives: Most of them children.
What is the outbreak that has failed to make headlines, despite its reach and fatality rate?
It’s the polio-like enterovirus EV-D68 that can cause severe respiratory illness. It has also been potentially linked to dozens of debilitating cases of paralysis.
CDC and medical experts state that measles is very dangerous: for every 1,000 cases of measles there will be approximately 2 deaths. But the death risk among serious cases of EV-D68 may be several fold greater: at least 14 associated deaths reported among 1,153 cases.
The CDC says it cannot explain why this particular form of enterovirus has surged to such an unusual degree in the U.S. The CDC also states that it has been unable to pinpoint its origin.
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the “large” measles outbreak and the largely unnoticed EV-D68/paralysis outbreak.
Cases ~1,153 in 5 months ~141 in 2 months
No. of States 49 17 (primarily Calif)
Deaths 14 0
Paralysis 94 n/a
If the measles outbreak is “large,” then the size and impact of the much larger EV-D68/paralysis outbreak would seemingly merit a great deal of attention. It leads to the question: why isn’t it being addressed with the same interest and vigor?
To date, the CDC has not responded properly to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request filed on December 14, 2014 about the EV-D68 outbreak. (Federal FOI law requires a response within the 20 business days).
This is a news analysis