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CDC warns of a potential surge in deadly disease that affects young children

2 years 1 week 2 days ago Wednesday, August 05 2020 Aug 5, 2020 August 05, 2020 11:29 AM August 05, 2020 in News
Source: ABC News
By: Falon Brown

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are warning another health risk may be afoot for children. 

A rare, yet potentially life-threatening disease called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a concern for the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.

Acute flaccid myelitis is a neurological condition that typically affects the spinal cord in young children. If not treated with urgency, permanent paralysis can ensue within a matter of hours. 

In a call to action, the CDC warns of a heightened risk of the uncommon illness between August and November due to an increase in enteroviruses. In particular EV-D68, which is the enterovirus responsible for causing AFM. 

"We expect that AFM will likely have another peak in 2020. That said, it's still unclear if or how COVID-19's recommended social distancing measures and attention to mask wearing and hand hygiene will impact how much enterovirus we end up seeing, along with cases of AFM," Glatter said.

Signs of acute flaccid myelitis include difficulty walking, weakness of the limbs, back pain or neck pain. Those with AFM may experience some respiratory symptoms or fever as well.

About 98 percent of patients with AFM require hospitalization and over half are admitted to the ICU. The average age of patients with acute flaccid myelitis is only 5 years old. 

Although the disease is rare, the CDC began tracking cases in 2014. Every year since, waves of outbreaks have occurred with peak numbers in 2018. 

If your child is experiencing a sudden weakness in the arms or legs, the CDC is urging parents to seek immediate emergency medical care from a pediatrician. 

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