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The CDC has said it expects an outbreak of the potentially deadly neurological and respiratory disease to erupt later this month. The disease, acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, often resurfaces in waves and children are most likely to catch the deadly bug. The CDC warns the disease is a medical emergency and urges patients to seek immediate medical attention, even in areas with high coronavirus infections.
The CDC has warned the next few months are “critical” and says early detection is vital.
They state the disease can progress rapidly over the course of just a few hours, causing permanent paralysis and life-threatening respiratory failure in previously healthy patients.
As a result, they have issued new guidance to health care providers to ensure symptoms are identified as early as possible.
Dr Robert Redfield, the organisation’s director, said in a statement: “As we head into these critical next months, CDC is taking necessary steps to help clinicians better recognise signs and symptoms of AFM in children.
“Recognition and early diagnosis are critical.”
Symptoms begin with a fever and respiratory issues, followed by possible limb weakness, difficulty walking and neck or back pain within roughly six days.
It is not clear exactly what causes the disease or how it spreads, but doctors suspect that it is viral — and previously healthy patients are not immune.
There is currently no test or treatment for AFM, nor a proven prevention method, the CDC said.
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The last time the US suffered an outbreak was in 2018, where 94 percent of the 238 infection were children.
The vast majority, 98 percent, were hospitalised, with more than half of those admitted to intensive care units.
Experts said it is not yet known how the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing measures introduced will affect the spread of AFM.
They also fear the pandemic could impact the health care system’s ability to promptly diagnose and respond to the killer disease.
But experts did acknowledge the social distancing measures in place could reduce the circulation of AFM.
Thomas Clark, MD, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases, said: “All clinicians should remain vigilant for AFM and promptly evaluate patients.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, this may require adjusting practices to perform clinical evaluations of patients by phone or telemedicine.
However, clinicians should not delay hospitalising patients when they suspect AFM.”
AFM has resurfaced in waves every two years in the US since 2014 and typically strikes between August and November.
So far this year 16 cases have been identified, including one death.
There have been a total of 633 confirmed cases since the CDC began tracking the disease in August 2014.
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