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Scientists find link between enterovirus 68 and paralysis in kids

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KANSAS CITY, Mo.  -- Since September, more than 100 kids in the U.S. have suffered from a mysterious paralysis. Doctors suspected it was linked to an outbreak of a respiratory virus last fall, but they couldn't find any evidence. Now they have.

Enterovirus 68 sickened tens of thousands of kids nationally, including many in Kansas City. Children's Mercy Hospital saw three cases of paralysis or muscle weakness. One of them was a Joplin teen who, like almost all the kids with paralysis, has not fully recovered.

Now researchers in California and Colorado have found the virus in half of the 25 children with paralysis that they looked at. Cases were from last fall, but there were also some going back to 2012. The scientists say they could not find anything else capable of causing the paralysis.

A doctor at Children's Mercy says it appears that some children can have a bad immune response to enterovirus 68.

"We have to find a treatment and or prevention or have a way to identify who is genetically predisposed to develop this process and identify them proactively," said Dr. Mary Anne Jackson at Children's Mercy said.

The infectious disease specialist added that kids who had the virus last fall are no longer at risk for paralysis. But she says the virus could be back this year.