A VIRUS that can leave some kids completely paralysed is on the rise, experts warn.
The bug, known as enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) typically causes a mild cold-like illness which lasts about a week.
However, in some cases the virus can develop into another more sinister neurologic condition called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).
AFM affects the spinal cord causing polio-like paralysis – which most children never fully recover from.
Several children in the US have died after developing the neurological illness.
The virus is very contagious, it is most commonly spread when an infected person sneezes or coughs droplets into the air or on surfaces.
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Experts have issued a warning to medics to watch out for symptoms of the virus as cases spike in the US for the first time in years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more children have tested positive for the bug this year than in the last three years combined.
Doctor Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist at UT Southwestern Medical Centre in the US told NBC News that cases are most likely rising again this year because children are back in school and other public spaces.
"We have a group of kids now who’ve never seen the virus, because they weren’t having school exposures.
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"So we think the at-risk population is bigger than in 2020," he said.
It can be hard to distinguish EV-D68 symptoms from those of respiratory viruses, Dr Greenberg said.
Much like the common cold, EV-D68 can cause a runny nose, sneezing, body aches or muscle aches.
AFP can also be difficult to diagnose because there are many other causes of weakness.
The illness could be confused with a severe case of polio, which results in a similar condition called acute flaccid paralysis.
Symptoms of Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM)
AFM is rare but incredibly serious.
It affects the nervous system – in particular, part of the spinal cord which causes muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak.
Most people will have a sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes.
Other signs can include:
- facial droop/weakness,
- difficulty moving the eyes,
- drooping eyelids, or
- difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech
- pain in arms or legs
The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure which can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak.
In very rare cases, it is possible that the process in the body that triggers AFM may also trigger other serious neurologic complications that could lead to death.
Doctors will typically examine a patient’s nervous system and look at images of the spinal cord and brain.
They can also test the fluid around the brain and spinal cord.
But there is currently no treatment available.
Back in 2018, 28 cases of AFP were reported in the UK.
The recent spike has just been seen in the US so far.
This year, polio was found lurking in London sewage, suggesting it may be spreading in the city – although no cases have been officially detected.
It prompted health officials to urge parents to check their kids' vaccination records.
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The US recorded one polio case in July, and it has detected the virus in wastewater across several New York counties.
The best way to protect yourself and your kids from EV-D68, experts said, is to be diligent about hand-washing and to wear a mask in public.
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