U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer Questions NIH About Outbreak of Severe Respiratory Infections Among Children
Enterovirus D68 Has Sickened At Least 470 People, Mostly Children, and May Lead to Paralysis
October 1, 2014 - Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today sent a letter to National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins asking for more information about NIH’s efforts to address the outbreak of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), which has caused respiratory illness in at least 470 people – almost all children – in 41 states and Washington, D.C. as of September 30. Symptoms of EV-D68 include coughing and difficulty breathing, but at least 4 children in Colorado who have tested positive for EV-D68 have also developed unexplained paralysis, and epidemiologists are currently investigating whether the paralysis is connected to EV-D68.
“We already know that EV-D68 is extremely dangerous to our children, particularly for those with asthma and other pre-existing respiratory conditions. Parents are wondering what more can be done to prevent their children from becoming infected,” Senator Boxer wrote. “What is NIH doing to develop vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments for EV-D68 and other related enteroviruses? What are the prospects of developing effective interventions, and how can we overcome any existing challenges in reaching that critical goal?”
In February, Boxer urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate reports of paralysis among children in California. At least two of the affected children tested positive for EV-D68.
While there is currently no vaccine to prevent EV-D68, the CDC has issued recommendations to prevent the spread of EV-D68, which include:
• Avoid close contact with sick people
• Wash your hands often with soap & water
• Cover Your coughs and sneezes
• Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
• Clean and disinfect surfaces
• Stay home when you’re sick
The full text of today’s letter follows:
October 1, 2014
Dr. Francis Collins
National Institutes of Health
1 Center Drive, Room 126
Bethesda, MD 20892
Dear Director Collins,
As you are aware, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 472 cases in the last two months of a virus that is causing severe respiratory infections in children. This enterovirus may not only be attacking these children’s lungs, but it may also later lead to sudden-onset paralysis, thereby victimizing these children and their families a second time.
In February, the nation learned of a rare polio-like disease that had paralyzed the limbs of at least 20 children in California over the previous year and a half. In a study, researchers at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford linked this strain of enterovirus (EV-D68) to two of five children with sudden-onset paralysis. Similarly, several children in Colorado who have developed muscle weakness and paralysis have tested positive for EV-D68 and their paralysis was preceded by respiratory symptoms.
Now, the CDC is investigating whether a link exists between EV-D68 and acute paralysis, and is recommending infection control practices, such as handwashing, to prevent spread of the virus. We already know that EV-D68 is extremely dangerous to our children, particularly for those with asthma and other pre-existing respiratory conditions.
Parents are wondering what more can be done to prevent their children from becoming infected.
What is NIH doing to develop vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments for EV-D68 and other related enteroviruses?
What are the prospects of developing effective interventions, and how can we overcome any existing challenges in reaching that critical goal?
Thank you for your commitment to our nation’s health and to the health of our children.
United States Senator