For Dr. Benjamin Greenberg, the wait will be about a week or possibly more, until he receives the results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirming the patient he is now treating with paralysis has Enterovirus D68.
Since mid-August, a total of 538 people in 43 states have been affected by respiratory illnesses caused by EV-D68, according to a report by the CDC. The CDC also released a health advisory note in late September informing that it was investigating severe neurological illnesses in children as a result of the virus.
Greenberg, a neurologist at the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, said he has been suspecting his 11-year-old patient, Bryan Sotelo, has EV-D68, after the boy told him that he had just been sick with a cold and fever. This led Greenberg to believe that the virus might have invaded the boy’s spinal cord, resulting in the weakness of one or more limbs and difficulty breathing.
Since then, Greenberg said he has been working with doctors to estimate the number of patients who are suffering from paralysis as a result of EV-D68.
“We’ve been leading an effort nationwide to get a sense of how many cases are out there,” Greenberg said. “What we’ve confirmed is that there’s pretty much cases in every major city across the U.S. where children are coming down with some form of paralysis, but the numbers are still thankfully on the small side.”
The Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services released a health advisory in late September, confirming 10 patients with EV-D68.
As of now, only one death has been confirmed as a direct result of the virus. Greenberg, a father of two, said parents should not be overly concerned because in most cases the virus causes just a cold, and only a small percentage of patients will suffer from any neurological complication.
“We don’t want people to worry,” Greenberg said. “But we want people to know that this has garnered the attention nationally of the CDC and others, and we’re working to get a handle on this, so we’re trying to be appropriately concerned but reassuring.”
According to the World Health Organization, vaccines are not available and treatment for EV-D68 is only supportive care and management of symptoms.
Valeria Merino is the editor-in-chief of EGMN's The Venture. She’s a print journalism student at the University of Houston who enjoys drawing, reading, and playing with her four dogs. Her career goal is to work at a women's fashion magazine, and she also hopes to one day write a romance novel.