AN outbreak of a rare illness that can cause permanent paralysis and other serious complications in children is expected this year, according to the CDC.
The department issued a warning this week that 2020 will likely be another peak year for acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which mostly affects young children.
The disease has peaked every two years between August and November in the US since 2014, when the CDC started tracking it, and is more likely to affect children who have had enterovirus infections.
The CDC has warned parents to be aware of symptoms that might indicate AFM, including sudden limb weakness, as well as recent respiratory illness or fever and the presence of neck pain, back pain or neurologic symptoms.
The department has urged both parents and healthcare providers to be aware of the potential for an AFM outbreak, because delaying treatment can have extremely serious consequences.
"AFM can progress rapidly over the course of hours or days, leading to permanent paralysis and/or life-threatening complications of respiratory failure in previously healthy patients," the department warned, "so delays in care can be serious."
While the illness is rare - 238 cases in 42 states were recorded during the last outbreak in 2018 - the CDC still stressed the importance of awareness due to the nature of it.
Parents who suspect their child may have AFM should seek medical attention immediately, even if they live in a state with high COVID-19 numbers, the department said.
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They also noted that the social distancing measures imposed in many states due to COVID-19 may lead to a reduction in AFM cases, but they don't know for sure yet.
"It is not known how the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing measures may affect the circulation of viruses that can cause AFM, or if COVID-19 will impact the health care system's ability to promptly recognize and respond to AFM," the department said.
"If social distancing measures decreased circulation of enteroviruses this year, AFM cases may be fewer than expected of the outbreak may be delayed."