Coronavirus isn’t the only virus family on the lam: The common cold also has a deadly cousin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning parents to be on the lookout for sudden limb weakness or pain, which are the primary symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a neurological condition that peaks every two years.
The symptoms usually appear abruptly, according to a CDC report: gait difficulty, neck or back pain, fever, and limb pain. The CDC’s message is that waiting and seeing is a terrible plan with these symptoms. Children need to receive immediate medical attention, because paralysis and respiratory failure can ensue, and also result in long-term debilitation. Though the last outbreak, in 2018, only affected 238 children, 98% were hospitalized and over half entered the ICU, a quarter on ventilators.
The bad news: The CDC is concerned that parents might avoid taking children to doctors or hospitals during the pandemic, or confuse kids’ symptoms with those of COVID-19, which can involve fever and overall fatigue or weakness. The good news: Social distancing may result in fewer cases this year.
AFM is associated with multiple enteroviruses, which infect approximately 10-15 million people per year and sometimes cause colds. AFM develops subsequently in a tiny percentage of children.