It is an acute flaccid myelitis, similar to polio, that affects the nervous system and causes weakness and even paralysis in some extremities
The CDC reports that they do not know what causes the disease, acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which affects the nervous system and triggers weakness and even paralysis in one or more limbs. Cases of this condition have risen every two years in the United States since 2014, affecting more Americans with each outbreak.
In 2018, 238 cases of AFM were reported to the CDC, compared to 149 cases in 2016. It is the largest outbreak since the CDC began surveillance in 2014. Most of the cases were in children, at 94 percent.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield warned last month that clinicians and parents should be vigilant to recognize symptoms, as they can rapidly progress to a “severe paralytic condition.”
“Patients can become paralyzed over the course of hours or days and require a respirator to help them breathe. Some patients will be permanently disabled, ”Redfield said, noting that most patients develop sudden weakness in the arms or legs.
“Timing is critical for the AFM,” he added. “Delays in the recognition and care of AFM can put patients at risk.”
Since the 2018 outbreak, the CDC has been able to better recognize the signs and symptoms of the condition and respond more quickly, it said below. Two years ago, the average age of AFM patients was 5 years old, and 58 percent were male.
“As we approach these critical months, the CDC is taking steps to help physicians better recognize the signs and symptoms of AFM in children,” he said.
Other symptoms of the condition include recent or current respiratory illness, fever, pain or numbness in the extremities, difficulty walking, headache, back or neck pain, difficulty speaking or swallowing, and weakness in the neck or face. according to the agency.
Both Redfield and Thomas Clark, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases, underscored the importance of seeking medical attention amid the current COVID-19 pandemic if children show possible symptoms of AFM.
“AFM is a priority for the CDC as we prepare for a possible outbreak this year,” Clark said. “We are concerned that in the midst of a COVID pandemic, cases may not be recognized as AFM, and we are concerned that parents may be concerned about taking their child to the doctor if they develop something as serious as limb weakness.” .
One phenomenon the researchers observed is that the disease is particularly prevalent between August and October, a period when many viruses generally circulate, according to the CDC.
Responding to a question about the reopening of schools and a possible outbreak of AFM this year, Redfield said he wanted to underline that the condition is “a very rare event.”
“I want to emphasize that it is a very rare event. It is a very serious event when it occurs in a family. But at the same time, it is an extremely rare event, ”he added.
“We encourage parents to follow the recommendations set forth by their schools and their local public health jurisdictions and especially to emphasize now more than ever careful hand washing, cough protocol, and disinfection of high-touch surfaces to help reduce the risk of all respiratory diseases, ”Clark added.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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