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CDC issues warning on flu-like illness linked to neurological complications in kids

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning about a respiratory illness that can lead to rare but serious neurological complications in kids.

Hospitals and health care providers are seeing an uptick in pediatric cases of enterovirus, EV-D68. Typically symptoms are mild and resemble the common cold. However, according to the CDC, EV-D68 infections can lead to acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)–a neurological disorder that causes facial drooping, difficulty swallowing and weakness in the arms or legs. 

The CDC released the warning in a Health Alert Network advisory Friday saying the number of children who tested positive for EV-D68 increased substantially in 2022. According to data obtained from the Vaccine Surveillance Network there were more cases in July and August of this year compared to the same time period in 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018. 

Symptoms of EV-D68 include cough, shortness of breath and fever, but if symptoms escalate to pain in the neck, back, arms or legs, difficulty swallowing, facial or eyelid drooping, weakness in the arms, legs or face, slurred speech or difficulty moving the eyes it could be a sign of AFM.  

“Increases in EV-D68 respiratory illnesses have typically preceded cases of AFM, indicating that increased vigilance for AFM in the coming weeks will be essential,” the agency stated in the report. It also urges clinicians to “strongly consider AFM in patients with acute flaccid limb weakness, especially after respiratory illness or fever between the months of August and November 2022.” 

EV-D68 circulates year-round with infections peaking in late summer and fall. While anyone is susceptible, EV-D68 is most common in adolescents, children and teenagers.