On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned parents and doctors that it expects another outbreak between August and November of a rare but life-threatening condition that mostly affects children.
According to the CDC, outbreaks of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a serious neurologic condition that can cause paralysis, typically peak every two years. The last peak occurred in 2018, when 238 cases were reported to the CDC.
The center said that parents and doctors should be vigilant to recognize symptoms of AFM because it progresses quickly over the course of hours or days, leading to permanent paralysis or life-threatening respiratory failure in previously healthy patients.
“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,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield.
Symptoms can include 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.
The CDC said it does not yet know how many deaths are connected to AFM, adding that many children who develop the condition will have a permanent disability.
In 2018, most patients had a respiratory illness or fever before experiencing limb weakness, according to the CDC. This leads scientists to think that AFM is caused by a virus, but much of the disease remains a mystery.
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