The past few years have been riddled with disease, illness, viruses, and outbreaks, but there’s a new concern that’s affecting nearly half of all hospitalized children and teenagers – Enterovirus. Over the past couple of months, cases of Enterovirus have surged in the United States.
The virus can be spread from one person to the next, much like COVID-19 or the flu. It’s most common in children, teenagers, and those with a weakened immune system. Most patients will report mild symptoms if any at all, but some patients might require further medical attention.
That’s not all. Those that come down with Enterovirus are at an increased risk of developing acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) and/or severe respiratory illness. AFM is a neurological condition that affects the spinal cord and is known to cause paralysis in children and teenagers.
Symptoms of Enterovirus include fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough, skin rash, mouth blisters, and body and muscle aches, according to the CDC. Here are some effective prevention tips:
- quently throughout the day
- Avoid touching your face with your fingers
- Avoid coming into close contact with those that are sick
- Wear a mask, when necessary
- Make sure you’re cleaning and disinfecting your home and work areas often
- If you’re sick, stay home and avoid close contact with others
Dr. Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist at Children’s Health, believes the surge in cases is a result of increased exposure now that students are back in school and interacting with others – especially considering some of these children have never encountered Enterovirus before.
This Isn’t Our First Encounter With Enterovirus:
Enterovirus is nothing new – in fact, the United States experienced a nationwide outbreak of Enterovirus in the summer and fall of 2014. At that time, 10% of Enterovirus patients developed AFM and researchers are warning doctors to expect a similar increase with this year’s outbreak.
The disease was first discovered in 1962, but it was never reported as a major problem until that 2014 outbreak. The US also experienced rises in AFM cases in 2016 and 2018, which were likely a result of Enterovirus. Unfortunately, it’s back and it’s already affecting hundreds of youth.
According to the CDC, the United States experienced 260 cases of Enterovirus in children (2.6 years old, on average) seeking hospitalized care between March and September of this year. There have also been 19 cases of AFM reported this year, compared to 28 cases in all of 2021.
“The child would have a cough, congestion, maybe a little fever, just the regular cold,” said Dr. Nicholas Haddad, an infectious disease specialist. “A few days later they would have this weakness. If that occurs, then I would definitely recommend immediate evaluation by the pediatrician.”
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If your child is experiencing symptoms of Enterovirus, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention and make sure you call ahead to avoid getting anyone else sick. And as always, stay safe!
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