Unexplained Paralysis Hospitalizes Children
CDC, with various state and local health departments, is alerting parents about an illness involving the brain and spinal cord identified in 10 children in Colorado. The children were hospitalized with muscle weakness or paralysis mostly in their arms or legs. Parents and children should always follow basic steps to stay healthy and avoid infections: wash hands frequently with soap and water, stay away from sick people, and disinfect objects that a sick person has touched.
Many parents are concerned to hear about these sick children in Colorado. This seems to be a rare sickness. Some of the children also have had cold-like symptoms. We don’t know yet what caused this illness or whether it spreads from one person to another. If a parent sees a child isn’t walking correctly or develops sudden weakness in an arm or leg, the parent should contact a doctor right away.
Who has been affected by this sickness?
Between August 9 and September 29, 2014, 10 children from 1 to 18 years of age in Colorado were hospitalized with this sickness. While we don’t yet know what caused this sickness, we do know the following things about the 10 children who’ve been hospitalized.
- Most had a problem with their spinal cord that could be seen on a magnetic resonance image (MRI) scan, a special scan that can identify nervous system problems.
- All had a fever, most with symptoms of respiratory illness, about one week before they felt muscle weakness.
- None of the children had any kind of virus found in their spinal fluid. It is possible that the correct test has not been done yet, or that the specimen was collected too late to find a virus. But that does not mean that a virus or other agent did not cause the damage to their spinal cord.
- About half of the children had EV-D68 in their nose secretions; the virus typically affects breathing. We do not yet know whether this respiratory infection is linked to their muscle weakness.
What can I do to protect my child?
Being up to date on all recommended vaccinations is the best way to protect you and your family from serious diseases including polio and acute respiratory illnesses including influenza, measles and whooping cough.
Although it is still unknown what’s causing this sickness and whether it can be spread from person to person, it is best for everyone in your house to follow basic steps to stay healthy and avoid infections: wash your hands frequently with soap and water, stay away from sick people, and disinfect objects that a sick person has touched.
Washing your hands the right way is one of the best things you and your children can do to protect against getting sick. Wash your hands
- before you touch food;
- after going to the bathroom, blowing your nose, changing a baby’s diaper, or touching an animal, an animal’s food, pee or poop;
- and before and after taking care of a sick person or a cut or wound.
If your child is having problems walking or standing or develops sudden weakness in an arm or leg, you should contact a doctor right away.
What are CDC, health departments, doctors and nurses doing to find out why children are getting sick?
CDC is working closely with partners in Colorado and elsewhere to find out why the children hospitalized are sick.
Doctors and nurses who see patients in their offices, clinics or hospitals with unexplained muscle weakness or paralysis in the arms or legs are testing them to see if they might have this sickness. They also are reporting information to their state or local health department.
Want more details? Read CDC’s guidance for health departments, doctors and nurses.