(Above image: A non-polio enterovirus as seen under a microscope)
As CDC resources have been stretched in dealing with the Ebola crisis, a lesser-known virus has become widespread in the U.S. and is now linked to a seventh death.
The latest CDC update on the current outbreak of the polio-like Enterovirus D-68 states that it has now been detected "in specimens from seven patients who died and had samples submitted for testing."
Unlike Ebola, CDC is not publicly addressing the spread of EV-D68 in television interview or telephone briefings.
According to the latest update from CDC, at least 796 people in 46 states have been sickened with the respiratory illness that can cause paralysis from mid-August through October 16. The outbreak is likely more widespread than reported since some states are not lab testing all respiratory illnesses to confirm. Most cases are said to be mild.
The identity of the seventh victim isn't provided on the CDC website.
A Phoenix couple reportedly says doctors have confirmed that enterovirus killed their infant son, Lancen Kendall, without warning. They told a local news station, 3TV, that CDC is testing to see if the D68 strain is to blame. The couple says their child showed no symptoms but simply did not wake up from a nap earlier this month.
"The lack of warning is the scariest part to me. We didn't know he was sick," father Kevin Kendall told the news outlet.
New alerts have been issued in Morristown, New Jersey.
Elizabeth, New Jersey public schools recently issued a warning to parents after two cases of enterovirus were reported at a local elementary school. Officials say they haven't been able to learn whether it is the D68 strain.
CDC reports that expects that EV-D68 infections will likely begin to decline by late fall. The agency notes that it has received "informal reports" that some hospitals and states are seeing signs that the infection rate is decreasing.
[quote]CDC is gathering more information from states and assessing whether this represents a national trend.[/quote]
A Michigan toddler, 21-month old Madeline Reid, was the sixth known patient to die of EV-D68 in the past two months.
Four-year-old Eli Waller of New Jersey died at home on September 25. A health official says Eli was “asymptomatic and fine” when he went to bed but died overnight. He had no known preexisting immune weakness.
A 10-year girl Rhode Island girl infected with EV-D68, Emily Otrando, died less than 24 hours after being rushed to the hospital with breathing problems. Three other patients with EV-D68 also died in September.
Polio, which can cause paralysis and death, is a type of enterovirus. EV-D68 is one of more than a hundred “non-polio” enteroviruses.
As previously reported:
Link to Illegal Immigrant Children?
Enteroviruses commonly circulate in the U.S. during summer and fall. EV-D68 was first identified in California in 1962. Over the past thirty years, only small numbers were reported in the U.S.
The CDC hasn’t suggested reasons for the current uptick or its origin. Without that answer, some question whether the disease is being spread by the presence of tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children from Central America admitted to the U.S. in the past year.
The origin could be entirely unrelated.
However, a study published in Virology Journal, found EV-D68 among some of the 3,375 young, ill people tested in eight Latin American countries, including the Central American nations of El Salvador and Nicaragua, in 2013.
Though the U.S. government is keeping secret the locations of the illegal immigrant children, there are significant numbers of them in both cities in which the current outbreak was first identified, Kansas City, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois, according to local advocates and press reports.
The EV-D68 outbreak was first recognized after Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri notified CDC on August 19 of an increase in severe respiratory illnesses. Four days later, on August 23, the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital notified CDC of a similar increase.
What is an enterovirus?
An enterovirus is a positive-sense (“plus-strand”) RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus. Other diseases caused by RNA viruses include Ebola, SARS, polio and measles.
According to CDC, there are no available vaccines, antiviral medications or specific treatments for EV-D68. Most cases are mild.