Via The Globe and Mail, Kelly Grant writes: Cluster of cases with polio-like symptoms baffles doctors. Excerpt:
In his 16 years as a pediatric neurologist, Brandon Meaney has never seen a situation like the one unfolding now at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ont.
In the space of two weeks, four children have turned up with polio-like symptoms that doctors cannot explain. All have been vaccinated against polio and none had contact with each other before arriving at the hospital.
Although Dr. Meaney, the head of pediatric neurology at McMaster, said his hospital sees an average of four to six patients every year with sudden muscle weakness and partial paralysis, the cause of their illness is usually swiftly diagnosed as something like Guillain-Barré syndrome, an immune disorder.
“But the polio-like presentation?” he said. “I haven’t seen a case in over 10 years.”
So far this month, nine other cases of patients with similar polio-like symptoms have been reported elsewhere in Canada: two in British Columbia, four in the Calgary area and three at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
It’s too early to determine the ultimate prognosis for these patients, though some have begun to recover the movement they had lost.
Dr. Meaney and his counterparts across Canada and the United States are trying to figure out if these cases of out-of-the-blue partial paralysis are caused by enterovirus D-68 [EV-D68], a previously rare strain of cold virus that has spread more widely in North America this year, causing severe respiratory illness in some children.
Clusters of children with unexplained neurological symptoms and sudden paralysis have also emerged in Colorado recently, and in California between June of 2012 and June of this year.
“There is a mystery here,” Dr. Meaney said. “With all the darn cases and all the attention and the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and everyone focused on it, we’ve got to at some point be able to pin it down.”
Linking the muscle weakness and partial paralysis cases to EV-D68 is no straightfoward task. In B.C., the two afflicted patients have tested positive for EV-D68, but in Hamilton only one has. Two other Hamilton patients have tested negative for EV-D68, while tests on the fourth patient are pending. Results are also still pending for the three patients in Toronto and the four in Calgary.