Polio-like Illness Claims Fifth Life in U.S.

Sharyl Attkisson, October 9, 2014

At least five children infected with the respiratory illness known enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) have died in the U.S. in the past month.

The lastest confirmed victim was a four-year-old New Jersey boy, Eli Waller. He died at home on September 25. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed the cause of death Friday night. But health officials say they have no idea how he contracted the virus. A health official says Eli was “asymptomatic and fine” when he went to bed but died overnight. He had no known preexisting immune weakness.

A 10-year girl Rhode Island girl infected with EV-D68, Emily Otrando, died less than 24 hours after being rushed to the hospital with breathing problems. Three other patients with EV-D68 also died in September.

The CDC reports that in the past month and a half, at least 538 people in 43 states and the District of Columbia have become ill with EV-D68. Most of them are children and some developed limb paralysis. Polio, which can cause paralysis and death, is a type of enterovirus. EV-D68 is one of more than a hundred “non-polio” enteroviruses.

The actual number of EV-D68 infections is likely significantly higher than reported since some state health officials are not testing every suspected case.


The CDC hasn’t suggested reasons for the current uptick or its origin. Without that answer, some question whether the disease is being spread by the presence of tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children from Central America admitted to the U.S. in the past year.

The origin could be entirely unrelated.

However, a study published in Virology Journal, found EV-D68 among some of the 3,375 young, ill people tested in eight Latin American countries, including the Central American nations of El Salvador and Nicaragua, in 2013.  (See Fig. 3)

Though the U.S. government is keeping secret the locations of the illegal immigrant children, there are significant numbers of them in both cities in which the current outbreak was first identified, Kansas City, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois, according to local advocates and press reports.


An enterovirus is a positive-sense (“plus-strand”) RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus. Other diseases caused by RNA viruses include Ebola, SARS, polio and measles.

According to CDC, there are no available vaccines, antiviral medications or specific treatments for EV-D68. Most cases are mild.


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