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Enterovirus, a paralyzing respiratory disease, is on the rise. Here’s what parents should know

Over 50% of children or teens who required emergency care or hospitalization in the week of Aug. 8 tested positive for the virus

SHARE Enterovirus, a paralyzing respiratory disease, is on the rise. Here’s what parents should know
Numerous, spheroid-shaped enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68) virions.

This 2014 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows numerous, spheroid-shaped enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68) virions. Health experts once thought 2020 might be the worst year yet for the rare paralyzing disease that has been hitting U.S. children for the past decade. But they now say the coronavirus pandemic could disrupt the pattern for the mysterious illnesses, which spike every other year starting in late summer.

Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Yiting Zhang, CDC via Associated Press

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report about an increase in emergency department visits in children due to a respiratory illness.

The CDC warned that enterovirus D63, a common virus, primarily spreads during later summer and fall and has been circulating in the United States since 2014, although it was never fully understood.

Because of pandemic-related masking measures, the disease was controlled during the last few years.

Now it’s back. So far, there have been 260 recorded cases this year, the most in the last three years combined. According to NBC News, over 50% of children or teens who required emergency care or hospitalization in the week of Aug. 8 tested positive for the virus.

According to Today, this infection typically causes mild to no symptoms, but on the flip side, it can also lead to acute flaccid myelitis, which is a polio-like paralysis.

“Many of those affected can get paralysis and that is very concerning,” said Dr. Nicholas Haddad, infectious disease specialist, according to WNEM 5.

“The child would have a cough, congestion, maybe a little fever, just the regular cold,” Haddad said. “And then a few days later they would have this weakness. If that occurs, then I would definitely recommend immediate evaluation by the pediatrician.”

Children with respiratory conditions like asthma may be more prone to catching the virus. Per NBC News, there are no specific treatments for acute flaccid myelitis, but antibody therapy can be used to improve the body’s immune response. Ventilators or fluids may also be used as supportive care.