Polio-like Virus Perplexes CDC

Agency researchers scramble to find the cause of a virus that’s affected about 160 children.

This one is getting people nervous, not only because of the epidemiology but also because of who’s most affected. The CDC is trying to find out exactly what’s afflicted about 160 people with a polio-like virus.

Stat reports this morning that scientists are exploring a range of explanations, including that the condition may be linked to an aberrant immune response to an infection. Nancy Messonnier, director of the agency’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that it’s possible that the illness is not being detected because a pathogen may be hiding somewhere in the body. In addition, it might be because the cause of the condition already exited the body when the limb weakness developed.

The patients are mostly children under 4, and they recover. However, Messonnier said that quite a few have long-term problems, but there isn’t any follow-up information on all of the cases.

Jaan Sidorov, MD, the CMO of medSolis and a member of Managed Care’s Editorial Advisory Board, reviewed the CDC’s report. “There has always been a background incidence of the condition—what’s new is that since 2014, the incidence has been increasing,” Sidorov says. “While every case is important, the absolute risk in the U.S. population numbering in the millions is still small.”

Sidorov did say that the outbreak is yet more proof of the importance of health insurance.

“While all eyes are on using health insurance to promote wellness, disease prevention and chronic condition management, it’s easy to forget that unexpected health crises can happen to anyone at anytime, and that the costs associated with that low but significant risk can be transferred to companies—called health insurers—that can pool that risk. That’s their primary role—collect dollars from many so that the few can be cared for without bankruptcy.”