WARNING: UK kids at risk from killer virus that can leave victims paralysed

Childhood coughs and sneezes can spread virus
Childhood coughs and sneezes can spread virus
Have your say

A child health alert has been issued over outbreak of polio-type virus that can easily be spread through coughs and sneezes.

Parents are warned previously rare bug enterovirus D68,which has no known cure or vaccine, is on the rise.

Linked to cases of very young children being left unable to walk, the virulent virus can cause paralysis, leaving worst affected kids fighting to breathe or swallow.

It is understood four young victims, who appeared to have lost use of their limbs, have been hospitalised in Edinburgh with a boy and primary-aged girl in intensive care for more than a month. The outbreak follows one in Wales over winter of 2014-15.

Public Health England has now published a risk assessment stating the virus is associated with ‘polio-like’ neurological symptoms.

Last year only 14 cases of EV-D68 were detected in the UK, but this year has already seen 38 lab-confirmed infections.

EV-D68 facts and figures at a glance

EV-D68 facts and figures at a glance

Most young patients have been admitted to hospital with respiratory problems, some suffering neurological issues.

While doctors have been notified, affected families fear too little has been done to alert the public. One source close to the outbreak said: "There’s a real concern the spread of this virus isn’t being made public.

"GPs need to know this virus is out there so they can recognise symptoms and make quick referrals. Symptoms seem to start with a sore throat but, within a day or so, they are left unable to breathe as their muscles stop working and they become floppy.

"It’s a terrifying disease that leaves a lot of the children permanently paralysed. Health officials seem to be really keen this is kept secret but parents and doctors need to know."

NHS Lothian incident management team chair Dr Kate Templeton confirmed: "We have been investigating a possible cluster of patients infected with enterovirus D68. The patients are all now testing negative for the virus."

Fears are growing over EV-D68 because of its link to phenomenon called acute flaccid paralysis that causes patients’ muscles to rapidly weaken.

If the muscles they need to breathe fail, they can die. Children are more vulnerable because they have not built up immunity to such viruses.

Enterovirus causes illnesses including meningitis and polio, which can temporarily paralyse legs. However, EV-D68 type is a non-polio virus.

Experts investigated it after an outbreak in the US killed 14 people and infected 1,153 between August 2014 and January last year.

Public Health England has confirmed the virus is circulating but said cases are in line with expected numbers. Many people who contract the virus only ever have mild cold-like symptoms and do not suffer paralysis.

The public are advised to take good hygiene precautions when sneezing and coughing, wash their hands and avoid close contact with people with colds and flu-like illnesses.