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CDC warns of a new respiratory virus that could paralyze children

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert regarding the increase in the spread of an infectious virus that could cause permanent paralysis in children.

The CDC said hospitals and other healthcare providers told the agency in the past month that “more hospitalizations in children with severe respiratory disease also found to be rhinovirus (RV) and / or enterovirus (EV)” have increased.

Some have also tested positive for enterovirus D68 – EV-D68. The CDC said the number of children who tested positive for RV or EV and EV-D68 is higher this year than before.

“Although it primarily causes acute respiratory disease, EV-D68 is associated with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare but serious neurological complication involving weakness in the limbs,” said the CDC in its advisory.

AFM can sometimes lead to permanent paralysis.

RVs are usually associated with an acute respiratory disease such as asthma. While electric vehicles can also lead to acute respiratory disease, it is linked to other problems such as rash with fever, neurological disease, aseptic meningitis, AFM, and encephalitis.

Respiratory symptoms are similar in people infected with RV and EV-D68.

“Common symptoms among hospitalized children with EV-D68 include coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing,” said the CDC, adding that “fever is reported in about half of the known cases.”

“On rare occasions, EV-D68 can cause AFM. This rare but serious neurological condition primarily affects children and usually presents with sudden weakness in the limbs, ‘the agency added. “There are no vaccines available or specific treatments for RV or EV, including EV-D68, and clinical care is helpful.”

RV and EV have similarities which make them “indistinguishable” in complex tests used in a clinical setting. More specific measures are needed to distinguish them.

According to the CDC, RVs circulate all the time, but tend to peak in spring and fall. The EV peak season is late summer and early fall, and the same is true for the EV-D68.

In 2014, EV-D68 caused a serious respiratory disease outbreak across the country.

Greater EV-D68 activity was also recorded in the fall of 2016 and 2018, and in 2020 to a “lesser extent”.

“Relatively lower circulation in 2020 may reflect the adoption of mitigation measures in the COVID-19 pandemic that are known to disrupt the circulation of other respiratory viruses,” the CDC told the CDC.

The number of AFM cases also increased in the fall of 2014, 2016 and 2018.

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