- The CDC has issued a health alert stating higher proportions of enterovirus D68 infections compared to previous years.
- Enterovirus D68 usually causes common flu-like symptoms but can progress into a disease that causes muscle paralysis in kids.
- Health officials urge parents and pediatricians to look out for serious symptoms, like weakness or inability to move arms or legs.
Health officials and the CDC are urging parents and pediatricians to be on the lookout for enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), a respiratory infection that can lead to a rare but debilitating disease in children.
Infections from enterovirus D68 are not new and are generally mild. Like most respiratory viruses, it causes symptoms similar to the common cold or flu, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. But what makes it worrisome is when it progresses to a polio-like disease called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).
According to AHN pediatrician Dr. Michael Petrosky, AFM is “a pretty severe illness which can cause muscle paralysis, muscle weakness and a lot of other serious complications which kids need to be hospitalized for.”
AFM cases have been around over the years, with spikes usually recorded from August through November every other year. The number of cases has shown an increasing trend with cases in 2014, 2016, and 2018 growing from 120, 153, and 238, respectively.
The increasing trend came to a stop in 2020, during which only 33 cases were confirmed. For this year, at least 13 AFM cases have been confirmed across five states as of early September 2022. Health officials believe that the mitigation efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic also curbed the spread of the enterovirus.
While AFM cases are rare, the CDC recently issued a health alert stating that enterovirus D68 has been reported in higher proportions compared to previous years.
Petrosky urged parents to look out for serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing and swallowing, a drooping face or eyelid, weak limbs, or inability to move arms or legs. These “long and persistent symptoms” usually manifest after recovery from the initial respiratory illness and may last longer than the 10 to 14 days of most viral infections.
While contracting enterovirus D68 doesn’t always progress into AFM, Petrosky advises immediate healthcare when symptoms keep worsening.
Contracting the enterovirus can be prevented through safety measures similar to pandemic precautions such as frequent handwashing, limited contact with infected people, and avoiding touching the face with unwashed hands.
You can visit the CDC’s website for more information on enterovirus D68.
Source: CBS News