CDC warns of outbreak of rare and life-threatening childhood illness
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning to parents and doctors that an outbreak of a rare polio-like disease that affects children is expected this year. Writes about it Fox News.
The agency said it is preparing for a possible outbreak of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a life-threatening condition that affects the nervous system, specifically an area of the spinal cord called the gray matter.
The disease usually causes weakness in the arms or legs, but can lead to paralysis over several hours or days. Every fourth child hospitalized with this diagnosis requires connection to a ventilator. In some cases, patients can become permanently disabled.
According to the CDC, which has been tracking data since 2014, the incidence of AFM tends to increase every two years, and a new leap is possible in 2020. This means that the number of cases may rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Clinicians must remain vigilant about AFM and see patients in a timely manner, even in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. "While the telephone and telemedicine can be used for initial assessment, AFM requires emergency medical care that requires personal monitoring as the condition can rapidly progress to respiratory failure."
Doctors should check for AFM in patients who suddenly experience limb weakness, especially between August and November. In addition, "respiratory illness or fever, neck or back pain, or any neurological symptoms should increase the doctors' concern."
However, Redfield said it is still unclear how the pandemic and social distancing measures might affect the spread of the disease.
“There may be fewer AFM cases this year or the outbreak will be delayed,” he said. "But we know AFM should be a public health priority."
2018 saw the third and largest AFM outbreak in the United States, with 238 confirmed cases in 42 states, according to Dr. Tom Clark, pediatrician and associate director of the Division of Viral Diseases.
Most of the cases were in young children around the age of 5. AFM developed mainly from August to November.
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