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Parents have been warned to look out for signs of respiratory illness in their children after a reported spike in cases of Enterovirus.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an alert over the spread of a common childhood virus (opens in new tab) that commonly leads to respiratory illness and can cause muscle weakness or paralysis in rare cases.
The Polio-like weakness is spreading among children and as a result the CDC has identified more EV-D68 cases among children with severe respiratory illness than in the past three years combined. There were 84 such cases from March through Aug. 4. In comparison, they identified six cases in 2019, 30 in 2020 and 16 in 2021. But these figures are expected to be much higher.
Dr. Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist at UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute who treats patients at Children’s Health in Dallas thinks cases are rising due to children going back to school.
"We have a group of kids now who’ve never seen the virus, because they weren’t having school exposures. So we think the at-risk population is bigger than in 2020," he said.
Dr Greenberg highlighted the symptoms of Enterovirus which like the common cold (opens in new tab), can cause a runny nose, sneezing, body aches or muscle aches. Meanwhile, children who need hospitalisation tend to have coughs (opens in new tab), shortness of breath, wheezing and - in about half of cases - fever.
Experts have advised parents to be diligent about hand-washing and to wear a mask in public to protect themselves and their children from Enterovirus.
Both EV-D68 and poliovirus can invade the nervous system and cause muscle weakness and result in a condition called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, which is characterised by inflammation in the neck region of the spinal cord.
As of September 2nd, 13 cases of AMF - ranging from people experiencing difficulties moving their arms to weakness in all four extremities.
Dr. Sarah Hopkins, a pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told ABC News (opens in new tab) that she expected a spike in recent years but the Coronavirus (opens in new tab) pandemic meant figures were lower than normal.
“We really thought this was going to happen in 2020, because we had the last spike in 2018. But then with mask-wearing and social distancing and all those things that limit the spread of a respiratory virus, we didn’t have that expected spike,” she explained.