The enterovirus D68, also known as EV-D68, is a respiratory virus that's been hospitalizing children across the nation. In the past three weeks, EV-D68 has spread from 12 states to 42, with four recent deaths linked to the virus.
Though according to HealthDay, "It's not clear what role – if any – the virus played in those deaths." The source reports health officials are trying to figure out whether the virus is connected to cases of muscle weakness and paralysis.
CBS reports some children who have EV-D68 are also showing polio-like symptoms. There have been 10 reported cases of children with these symptoms in Colorado, and health officials in California reported a similar case Wednesday.
An infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University told WebMD: "This could be just coincidental, so we can't leap to the conclusion that enterovirus D68 is the cause of this paralysis. ... It's right at the top of our list of suspects, but we haven't nailed it yet."
The unknown is leaving health officials and families in confusing and difficult situations.
DR. TERI SCHREINER VIA CBS: "It's very frustrating not to be able to give a good prognosis to these parents who all of a sudden have a child with in some cases marked weakness of one or more of their limbs."
According to The New York Times, as of Wednesday, there were 472 confirmed cases of the infection. The virus hit early in Kansas City, but one doctor from that area thinks cases might have plateaued and they likely won't see any more before the end of the month.
That would, of course, be welcome news. But CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta points out this disease isn't unlike many common illnesses.
"Regular flu kills some 30,000-40,000 people a year in this country, and it's sad to think about, but that's the reality, and enterovirus is one of those types of strains that can lead to death."
There are currently no preventive vaccines for this illness, but there are steps you can take to improve your chances of staying healthy.
COMMUNICABLE-DISEASE PROGRAM SUPERVISOR VIA KULR: "To prevent catching it is going to be the same thing with this as we tell people to prevent against the influenza — you must wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands."
Other tips include keeping a distance from people who are sick and cleaning surfaces that are touched often.
Children are most susceptible to the virus, but if you're an adult and having breathing problems or other symptoms that are common with a bad cold, you shouldn't take any chances and should get checked out by a doctor.