Outbreak of child-paralyzing disease is likely this fall, CDC warns

On top of COVID-19 and the seasonal flu, Americans should expect another outbreak of the rare but paralyzing disease acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned Tuesday. 

AFM is a mysterious disease that experts believe can be triggered by several enteroviruses - but primarily EV-D68 - which commonly cause respiratory infections, but occasionally lead to devastating illnesses in children. 

Scientists aren't sure why, but outbreaks of AFM tend to happen every two years, with more than 100 children affected in the fall of each 2014, 2016 and 2018. 

AFM is a neurological condition that is believed to develop after a virus attacks children's spinal cords (directly or indirectly), leading to limb and muscle weakness and sometimes long-term disability or paralysis.

And as parents brace themselves to send their children to school amid the pandemic, the CDC is urging them to be vigilant for this additional threat to their kids' health. 

CDC officials warned on Tuesday that the US is likely to face another outbreak of the rare childhood paralysis disease, acute flaccid myelitis, which left Braden Scott of Tomball, Texas, disabled. He was diagnosed with the mysterious syndrome called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, in 2016 and was paralyzed almost completely. But since then he has recovered much of his muscle function (file)

CDC officials warned on Tuesday that the US is likely to face another outbreak of the rare childhood paralysis disease, acute flaccid myelitis, which left Braden Scott of Tomball, Texas, disabled. He was diagnosed with the mysterious syndrome called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, in 2016 and was paralyzed almost completely. But since then he has recovered much of his muscle function (file) 

WHAT IS ACUTE FLACCID MYELITIS (AFM)?

The term 'myelitis' means inflammation of the spinal cord.

Transverse myelitis is the broad name of the disease, and there are various sub-types.

It is a neurological disorder which inflames the spinal cord across its width ('transverse'), destroying the fatty substance that protects nerve cells.

That can lead to paralysis.

AFM is an unusual sub-type of transverse myelitis.

Patients starts with the same spinal inflammation, but their symptoms are different and the disease develops differently.

The main distinction is that AFM patients are weak and limp, while patients with general transverse myelitis tend to be rigid.

Most AFM patients start to struggle with movement of the limbs, face, tongue, and eyes.

They then begin to lose control of one limb or sometimes the whole body - though many maintain control of their sensory, bowel and bladder functions.

Unlike transverse myelitis, which has been around for years, doctors are still in the dark about why and how AFM manifests itself.

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Although sporadic reports of the disease occur in off

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