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The CDC issued a warning on Friday about the spread of a common childhood virus that can cause muscle weakness in some cases. In rare cases, enterovirus D68 can even cause paralysis.

EV-D68 commonly leads to respiratory illness in kids with mild symptoms. Yet, in some children, symptoms can become more severe. The enterovirus family encompasses poliovirus and EV-D68, both which can invade the nervous system.

Sometimes, EV-D68 can result in AFM (acute flaccid myelitis) which is characterized by inflammation in the neck region of the spinal cord. In 2014 during an outbreak in the US, 10 percent of people diagnosed with EV-D68 developed AFM, which can be difficult to fully recover from. But the condition is likely rarer than that since most people don’t get tested for EV-D68 in the first place.

This year, the CDC has identified more EV-D68 cases in children than in the past three years combined. Doctors had predicted a spike in 2020, but with the onset of COVID and subsequent masking policies, that never happened. Now as kids reenter schools and public spaces, the risk for EV-D68 is up.

Much like the common cold, EV-D68 can cause a runny nose, sneezing, and body aches. Kids who require hospitalization usually have coughs, shortness of breath, wheezing and sometimes fever.

The CDC says healthcare providers should be on the lookout for EV-D68 cases among kids and in those patients with muscle weakness, to consider AFM as a possible diagnosis.

You can help protect yourself from getting and spreading respiratory viruses, like rhinoviruses or EV-D68, by following these steps, says the CDC:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick, and when you are sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

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