CDC: Respiratory illness in kids that can cause polio-like syndrome on the rise

EV-D68 virus occasionally can cause experience limb weakness and a progressive form of paralysis in young children, and it appears to be increasing

By Leila Merrill

ATLANTA — The CDC issued a health alert Friday to health care providers about an increase in activity of a virus that causes respiratory illness and in rare cases leads to a polio-like syndrome in young children.

An enterovirus called EV-D68 regularly circulates and typically just causes colds, but occasionally, children infected with it begin to experience limb weakness and a progressive form of paralysis, STAT reported.

After fewer cases appeared earlier in the pandemic, the CDC said that EV-D68 seemed to be at least responsible for an uptick in hospitalizations last month among children with respiratory infections.

The government agency also said that the virus seemed to be outpacing other kinds of cold-causing bugs.

The CDC offered several recommendations for healthcare providers, laboratory personnel and the public.

For infection control, the CDC recommends that PPE include gowns, gloves and masks and the use of hospital-grade disinfectant.

Pediatric infectious disease physicians are asking health care workers and parents to watch out for early signs of EV-D68-related paralysis, acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

“EV-D68 is back this year and circulating in the U.S.,” said Kevin Messacar, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, who warned that in past years, waves of the enterovirus were followed by spikes in AFM. “So we want providers, first-line health care workers, pediatricians, ER docs to be on the lookout for cases of patients presenting with weakness, knowing that this is circulating, so that those cases can be diagnosed quickly and managed appropriately,” he said.

AFM symptoms include limb weakness, drooping eyelids and trouble swallowing or speaking. Symptoms can progress within days.

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