The U.S. news media are giving little attention to one of the most significant and alarming current health stories – the World Health Organization has issued a global alert due to the outbreak in the U.S. of the debilitating Enterovirus D68.
There has been speculation the polio-like Enterovirus, which mostly targets children, could have been carried into the U.S. by illegal-alien minors from Central America.
The WHO’s alert for the Enterovirus 68, or EV-D68, in the U.S. was issued Sept. 17.
A global WHO alert for the virus is exceptionally rare and is the first of its kind associated with an outbreak in the U.S.
The last global alert for Enterovirus was issued in 2008 in China. The only other Enterovirus alert came 10 years earlier, in 1998, again in China.
The U.S. news media, however, largely have failed to report on the WHO alert. A Google News search for the terms “World Health Organization, Enterovirus” finds no headlines on the alert other than the WHO’s own press release.
The WHO release says that on Sept. 10, the U.S. government informed the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization of an “outbreak of severe respiratory illness associated with Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).”
As of Sept. 17, according to the WHO report, 30 laboratory-confirmed cases of EV-D68 were reported in 12 states – Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
“Investigations into suspected clusters in many other states are ongoing,” WHO stated, justifying the issuance of the global alert.
According to news reports, the EV-D68 virus so far has killed five children and has hit minors especially hard.
Since mid-August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has confirmed more than 600 cases of Ev-D68, noting almost all cases were documented in children.
Ev-D68 usually causes mild to severe respiratory illness, starting with symptoms of runny nose and cough. The virus could bring on difficulty breathing, wheezing and other respiratory symptoms. It could be more severe in patients with pre-existing conditions such as asthma or other respiratory diseases.
The EV-68 virus was identified in California in 1962, but until the current outbreak it has rarely been diagnosed in the U.S. in the past four decades.
The latest outbreak has taken on a political tone, with some in talk radio and on the blogosphere suggesting the virus may have been carried to the U.S. by illegal aliens, especially the so-called unaccompanied alien children, or UACs, who have been streaming across the southern border.
Most UACs originate in Central American countries, some of which have seen recent spates of EV-68 virus outbreaks.
A study published Oct. 11, 2013, in Virology Journal collected nasopharyngeal swabs from eight Latin American countries from 3,375 subjects aged 25 years or younger who presented with influenza-like illness.
The study found human Enteroviruses were identified in a staggering 3 percent of all subjects.
Former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, writing at her personal website, surmised “the origin could be entirely unrelated,” but because the “CDC hasn’t suggested reasons for the current uptick or its origin,” some are questioning “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.”
Savage, who earned a doctorate in epidemiology at the University of California at Berkeley, declared on his show last month: “For 20 years, I’ve been trying to warn America about the unscreened immigrants being brought in. Now, of course, it’s coming home to roost and the American people are being lied to by the Centers for Disease Transmission. They used to be the CDC; they’re now the CDT.”
Limbaugh similarly explored the possibility of a link between the flood of illegal aliens and the spread of EV-D68.
Limbaugh asked: “Are the two stories related or are they not? Does this sweeping, mysterious virus that’s multiplying across the Midwest, does it have anything to do with it or not? We don’t know. That’s the answer. We just don’t know. But some people think there may be some kind of a connection.”
Pat Robertson, speaking on “The 700 Club” show on the Christian Broadcasting Network, also connected the EV-D68 outbreak to the flood of illegals.
“I don’t know if anybody has done an analysis, and it may be way off the wall as to the fact we’ve had this flood of children coming across the border from Central America – did they carry with them viruses that we were not familiar with in the United States and haven’t built up immunity to? It’s entirely possible,” he said.
The progressive activist organization Media Matters for America has weighed in on matter.
In a blog posting titled “Conservatives Falsely Blame Undocumented Children For Deadly Enterovirus,” Media Matters cites a statement it obtained from CDC spokeswoman Jeanette St. Pierre saying: “Currently, there is no evidence from testing at CDC that EV-D68 infections in the U.S. are a result of unaccompanied minors moving into the country.”
With additional research by Brenda J. Elliott.