The disease is very rare, but a quick response is critical once the weakness sets in; the disease can progress over hours or days and lead to permanent paralysis or respiratory failure, according to a report issued Tuesday by the CDC. Among 211 patients who were struck by the disease in 2018, 98 percent were hospitalized, 54 percent required intensive care and 23 percent were placed on ventilators to help them breathe.
Limb weakness, difficulty walking and limb pain are often preceded by fever or respiratory illness, usually by about six days, the CDC said. Hundreds of U.S. children have been affected and many do not fully recover.
A number of viruses — including West Nile virus, adenovirus,and nonpolio enteroviruses — are known to produce the symptoms in a small number of people, who become infected by those pathogens. Enterovirus, particularly one dubbed EV-D68, appears to be the most common cause.
Thomas Clark, deputy director of CDC’s division of viral diseases, said the coronavirus pandemic may force doctors to evaluate patients by phone or telemedicine but warned they should not delay if they suspect the syndrome.
It’s unclear whether mask wearing, social distancing and other measures that have been taken against the coronavirus will limit the outbreak of acute flaccid myelitis expected this year.
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