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article imageCDC - Prepare for 2020 outbreak of polio-like illness in children

By Karen Graham     Aug 4, 2020 in Health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned parents and doctors Tuesday that it expects another outbreak this year between August and November of a rare but life-threatening condition that mostly affects children,
The disease is called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM. It is a mysterious polio-like illness that causes paralysis in children. It is suspected that an enteroviruse - EV-D68 - is likely responsible for the increase in cases that have been recurring every two years since 2014, according to the CDC.
When AFM last peaked in 2018, there were 238 cases in the U.S. reported to the CDC. In those 2018 cases, failure to recognize the symptoms early enough resulted in a delay in treatment for 35 percent of the patients. So the CDC is stressing the importance of recognizing the symptoms of AFM early because the disease is considered a medical emergency.
“Recognition and early diagnosis are critical,” said CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield, reports “CDC and public health partners have strengthened early disease detection systems, a vital step toward rapid treatment and rehabilitation for children with AFM.”
The symptoms can include a recent or current respiratory illness, fever, pain or numbness in limbs, difficulty walking, talking or swallowing, headache, back or neck pain, or facial weakness. Parents should immediately seek medical care if a child develops sudden arm or leg weakness, the CDC says, per The Hill.
Even though other countries have reported AFM cases, including Canada, France, Great Britain and Norway, the size and pattern of the U.S. outbreaks have been more pronounced. In the past 10 years, over 550 Americans have been struck by the disease. The oldest was 32. More than 90 percent were children, most around 4, 5 or 6 years old.
Remember  AFM is a medical emergency
Remember, AFM is a medical emergency
AFM during the COVID-19 pandemic
Remember, AFM is a medical emergency and patients should seek immediate medical care, even in areas with high COVID-19 activity. Dr. Thomas Clark, deputy director of the CDC’s division of viral diseases, says the COVID-19 pandemic may require clinicians to perform evaluations by phone or telemedicine.
It is not known how social distancing and the wearing of face masks will affect the circulation of viruses that can cause AFM, nor is it known how the nation's response to the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the healthcare system's ability to promptly recognize and respond to AFM.
Regardless of there being an outbreak or not, the CDC is hoping that social distancing will slow the spread of the viruses that are responsible for AFM. “We want parents to understand that many measures have been taken to provide health care onsite safely,” Clark said. "AFM is a medical emergency and any signs of limb weakness in their kids that develop suddenly, they need to take them to the doctor.”
More about acute flaccid myelitis, poliolike illness, children', Enteroviruses, recurs every two years
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