A while ago, I reported on an outbreak of a mysterious viral disease that exhibited polio-like symptoms. At the time, around 23 children and young adults were afflicted with the disease. Some of them tested positive for enterovirus 68 (known as EV-68 or EV-D68), a member of a genus of viruses that includes over 66 different species that can infect humans. None of these children tested positive for the polio virus.
Polio is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, a human enterovirus, that spreads from person to person invading the brain and spinal cord and causing paralysis. Because polio has no cure, the polio vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and the only way to stop the disease from spreading.
The United States last experienced a polio epidemic in the 1950s, prior to the introduction of the polio vaccine 60 years ago. Today, polio has been eradicated from most of the planet, as the number of worldwide polio cases has fallen from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 223 in 2012—a decline of more than 99% in reported cases.
Predictably, the anti-vaccine community has decided to use this extremely rare virus to make specious claims about vaccines, pesticides, and who knows what else. Typical of these tropes, we pro-science types completely debunk it, thinking it’s dead and done. But like the metaphorical zombie, it arises again to eat the brains of anti-vaccine activists. So, here I go again.