Four cases of children hospitalized with paralysis are under investigation by Alberta Health Services (AHS), but officials say the patients have not been diagnosed with enterovirus D68.
Enterovirus D68 or EV68 — a strain of cold virus known to cause serious respiratory illness — has seen a spike in confirmed cases across North America in recent weeks, with over 145 suspected cases across 11 Midwestern U.S. states, three cases in B.C., over 100 in Ontario and 50 confirmed cases in Alberta.
In B.C., health officials are trying to determine if the paralysis-like symptoms in two patients with EV68 were caused by the infections. In one of the cases, a young boy with cold symptoms experienced sudden weakness in his left arm.
“In Alberta, we have had reported to us four cases of what we’re calling an acute neurological syndrome which involves the acute sudden onset in kids of weakness in their limbs,” said Gerry Predy, Senior Medical Officer of Health with AHS.
“Of those four that we’ve identified with this syndrome, we haven’t confirmed EV68 in any of them.”
Predy said the four children were hospitalized at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary. None of 50 confirmed cases of EV68 in Alberta have seen symptoms of paralysis, he said.
There are hundreds of strains of enteroviruses that circulate in the late summer and early fall, said Predy, with most causing mild cold symptoms but some strains can cause serious symptoms, especially in kids with asthma or other respiratory conditions. The seasonal surge in specific cases of EV68 is being researched, said Predy, adding that the number of overall cases isn’t unusual.
“Most of the kids who have it, have a very mild illness so the only difference we’ve seen this year is perhaps a few more cases at the more serious end of the disease spectrum.”
EV68 causes respiratory illness that varies from mild to severe. While initial symptoms are similar to those for the common cold — including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever — patients can develop pneumonia, reduced alertness, a reduction in urine production, and dehydration.
Predy said there’s no vaccine or specific prevention for EV68 but added that it’s important that Albertans ensure that they wash their hands, particularly after they go to the toilet or if they change diapers.
“We’re also suggesting to parents that if their child does have a cold or a respiratory condition, that they do keep their child out of school until the child is feeling better,” he said.
Anyone with questions or concerns about EV68 should contact their family doctor or call HealthLINK Alberta at 1-866-408-5465.