An unexplained, polio-like illness has affected 75 children across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The first cases were reported in August in Colorado, around the same time that children began going to the emergency room with breathing problems related to enterovirus D68, according to the CDC. The CDC reports 1,116 cases of the enterovirus in 47 states and Washington, D.C., in recent months, almost all in children. Twelve children with the virus have died.
The paralysis resembles polio in that the children have severe muscle weakness. All had a fever and respiratory symptoms about a week before developing the paralysis. Most of the children had problems with the spinal cord that could be seen on a magnetic resonance image, or MRI, according to the CDC.
Some of the children also had enterovirus D68 in their nasal mucus. That virus typically causes respiratory problems, so doctors don’t know if it’s to blame for the paralysis, according to the CDC.
Enteroviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause “summer colds,” or respiratory bugs in late summer or early fall.
To reduce the risk of contracting enterovirus D68 – as well as the flu or other infectious diseases – the CDC recommends that people wash their hands frequently.