Editor's note: This story was updated on Oct. 24, 2014, with new case numbers and more information.
Sept. 9, 2014 -- A fast-spreading virus related to hand-foot-and-mouth disease is hospitalizing kids across the country.
The virus, called enterovirus D68 or EV-D68, was first discovered in 1962 in California. But until now, it has only been tied to smaller clusters of disease around the U.S.
This is the first time it’s caused such widespread misery, and it seems to be particularly hard on the lungs.
As of Oct. 23, the CDC and state public-health labs have confirmed more than 970 cases of EV-D68 in 47 states and Washington, D.C. Nearly all of the cases have been in children.
Health officials expect that EV-D68 cases, like cases of all enteroviruses, will “likely begin to decline by late fall,” the CDC says. Some states have reported that EV-D68 infections are decreasing, according to the agency.
Some children with EV-D68 have died, but it’s unclear if the virus directly caused their deaths or was a contributing factor. Health officials are investigating.
A few children hospitalized with EV-D68 have also developed unexplained paralysis in their arms and legs, officials say. The CDC is doing further tests to figure out the cause of the paralysis.
“This could be just coincidental, so we can’t leap to the conclusion that enterovirus D68 is the cause of this paralysis,” says William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. “It’s right at the top of our list of suspects, but we haven’t nailed it yet.”
“Many of us will have EV-D68,” says Michael Fine, MD, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, in a statement. “Most of us will have very mild symptoms, and all but very few will recover quickly and completely. The vast majority of children exposed to EV-D68 recover completely.”
We reached out to pediatricians and infectious disease specialists to find out what parents should know about this respiratory illness.