CDC warns parents: Rare, polio-like virus that affects young children will see cases peak in 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday that parents need to be on the lookout this fall for a rare “life-threatening” virus that affects young children.

According to the CDC, this year will be a peak year for acute flaccid myelitis, a rare, polio-like virus that causes paralysis in young children.

“As we head into these critical next months, CDC is taking necessary steps to help clinicians better recognize signs and symptoms of AFM in children,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said. “Recognition and early diagnosis are critical. CDC and public health partners have strengthened early disease detection systems, a vital step toward rapid treatment and rehabilitation for children with AFM.”

AFM symptoms include:

  • Limb weakness and paralysis
  • Fever
  • Difficulty walking, talking, or swallowing
  • Headache
  • Back or neck pain
  • Facial weakness
  • Recent or current respiratory illness

“Multiple viruses, including West Nile virus, adenovirus, and nonpolio enteroviruses, are known to cause AFM,” according to the CDC.

At a media briefing on Tuesday, Thomas Clark, deputy director of CDC’s division of viral diseases, said there is concern about the peak of AFM amid coronavirus outbreak.

“We are concerned that, in the midst of a COVID pandemic, that cases might not be recognized as AFM, or we are concerned that parents might be worried about taking their child to the doctor if they develop something as serious as limb weakness,” Clark said.

The disease, which on average peaks every other year, affected 238 young children in 2018; the median age for infection was 5 years old and 58% of those infected were male.

Shockingly, 98% of those who contracted AFM in 2018 required hospitalization, 54% were admitted to an intensive care unit, and 1-in-4 required the use of a ventilator.

According to the CDC, “AFM is a medical emergency and patients should seek immediate medical care.” Delaying medical care increases the likelihood of permanent neurological damage in patents.

The disease is expected to peak between August and November.

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Author: Chris Enloe

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