CDC Expects 2020 Outbreak Of Rare, Polio-Like Illness Affecting Children
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning parents and doctors about the potential later this year for an outbreak of a life-threatening condition that mostly affects children, according to The Hill.
Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a serious neurologic condition that can cause paralysis, has outbreaks that peak every two years in the late summer and fall. The last peak was in 2018 with 238 cases reported to the CDC, The Hill reported..
Though the condition is rare, it still is important for parents to be aware of the symptoms as it progresses very suddenly over the course of hours or days. The condition can lead to permanent paralysis or respiratory failure in otherwise healthy patients.
The report listed symptoms including “recent or current respiratory illness, fever, pain or numbness in limbs, difficulty walking, talking or swallowing, headache, back or neck pain, or facial weakness.”
CDC Director Robert Redfield said:
“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.”
The disease remains much a mystery, though scientists believe it may be caused by a virus, and the CDC notes that many of the children who develop the condition will have a permanent disability.
Thomas Clark, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases, said:
“We’ve learned a lot but we have a lot to learn about AFM. We don’t yet know why certain kids develop AFM when the great majority who have respiratory illness recover with no neurologic symptoms.”
The median age of AFM patients in 2018 was 5 years old and 98 percent of patients were hospitalized. The CDC points out that though many parents will likely be afraid to go to a health facility given the current Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to seek medical care if they notice symptoms.
The Hill said it is “not yet clear if social distancing because of COVID-19 will affect circulation of the enteroviruses and other viruses thought to cause AFM.”