Doctors at Cincinnati Children’s alert parents about rare enterovirus that peaks every two years

Seasonal virus warning as NKY boy recovers from acute flaccid myelitis

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center want parents to be aware of a virus that is expected to peak in the fall of 2020.

They say Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare, but serious, illness that affects the nervous system, mostly in children between the ages of 3 to 10-years-old.

“Acute flaccid myelitis first emerged in the fall of 2014,” Marissa Vawter-Lee, MD, a neurologist at Cincinnati Children’s said in a news release. “We saw it again in 2016, 2018, and so history tells us we expect to see this specific enterovirus again this fall. An enterovirus is a virus that can give you a cold, runny nose, or a cough. What we don’t know is how COVID-19 will have an impact, so we really just want parents to be aware.”

Doctors say AFM is related to a viral infection that in some children triggers an abnormal immune response. As a result, it causes changes in the spinal cord and brain which can result in a sudden onset of weakness in the arms and legs.

(Source: CDC)

Cincinnati Children’s said in 2018, 3-year-old Elijah Peacock was admitted after both of his legs had suddenly gone weak.

“It all started with a cold. Normal sniffles and a cough,” Alex Voland, Elijah’s mom said. “The biggest concern was that he kept tripping. He’d walk a few steps and then would fall over. A few days later he couldn’t walk at all.”

Now at age 5, his family said he is in a wheelchair and takes part in physical therapy to strengthen his legs.

His mom said Elijah is doing 10 times better from when he first got AFM.

According to Cincinnati Children’s, researchers are still trying to determine what causes AFM and they are working with the CDC to get answers.

“For parents, I don’t think this is something you need to be at home worrying about all the time but you should having a basic understanding of what specifically to look out for in your child,” Ben Kerrey, MD, attending physician in the Division of Emergency Medicine, at Cincinnati Children’s said in a news release. “It’s going to be a dramatic, obvious difference in your child than what you would normally see. Specifically, sudden weakness in the extremities.”

They said the best way to prevent any viral infection is to practice standard precautions: good hand washing, avoiding those who are ill, and staying home if you are the one who is ill. Doctors also remind parents to get their children a flu vaccine.

“With COVID-19 precautions already in place, we hope to see fewer AFM cases since people are already washing hand frequently and practicing social distancing. But, even with those measures in place, we want parents to be aware of what AFM looks like should their child have symptoms,” Vawter-Lee said.

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