Image: CDC

The US May Have Another Deadly Enterovirus Epidemic Soon

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has strained healthcare systems of nearly all countries around the world, including the US, which currently has the highest number of cases and worsening conditions in all of the states. However, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has warned about another enterovirus epidemic in the country, which may be far deadlier and is expected to begin in the fall of this year.

More specifically, the health agency has stated that the US may have outbreaks of Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) caused by enteroviruses, which is a neurological condition that can lead to paralysis and even death.

People who are diagnosed with the issue experience symptoms such as pain in the back, neck, and shoulder along with overall weakness and a constant fever. Over the passage of time, the signs tend to worsen and may cause life-threatening health events including respiratory failure and irreversible full-body paralysis.

The condition primarily targets the gray matter present in the middle of the spinal cord, which is also what causes pain and discomfort in the limbs and back of the patient.

Although the disease is fairly uncommon, there have been outbreaks of it in the US since the year 2014, especially during the months of August, September, October, and November. Now, the CDC has released a report that predicts a far bigger epidemic that may start in autumn this year.

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Previously, the last outbreak of the condition occurred in the fall of 2018 which affected more than two hundred people in the country. Nearly ninety-nine percent of the patients required hospitalization and immediate medical attention.

Over fifty percent of the patients were admitted to emergency rooms. Secondly, one in four people also required ventilators to survive. Children and adolescents made the majority of the cases of acute flaccid myelitis.

Though the disease did not spread as fastly as coronavirus, it is far deadlier and becoming more and more common, which is why the CDC has warned about the enterovirus epidemic to the medical community.

According to previous research on Acute flaccid myelitis, the disease is caused by enteroviruses. Typically, enteroviruses are not dangerous and can be treated effectively.

However, in case the enterovirus infects the nervous system, which is what happens in Acute flaccid myelitis, the health outcomes are difficult to manage and life-threatening. The enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68) is responsible for most of the cases of the disease.

Currently, health experts hope the predicted outbreak of enterovirus with the beginning of autumn can be controlled with the restrictions imposed for coronavirus infection such as avoiding physical contact and maintaining social distancing.

AFM, in comparison with coronavirus infection, can be far more difficult to diagnose and control in patients. An enterovirus epidemic can further damage the already strained healthcare system and increase the pressure in hospitals that are already struggling with increasing coronavirus patients.

Therefore, the CDC urges people and especially caregivers or parents to look out for symptoms of AFM including sudden back pain and weakness in the limb, and report it immediately. In addition, hospitals and pediatricians should be prepared to manage and treat the rising number of cases of acute flaccid myelitis.