Covid-19 Story Tip: Seasonal Poliolike Syndrome Outbreak in Children Could Be Smaller in Light of Covid-19 Pandemic


Early data from U.S. infectious disease experts suggests that physical distancing has affected infection rates of seasonal viruses, such as this year’s shorter, more abrupt flu season. Other seasonal viruses, such as enterovirus D68, the virus thought to be behind the poliolike syndrome acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), may also be affected by changes in how people interact with society. AFM affects children and can cause inflammation in the spinal cord, which can lead to muscle weakness and paralysis in the arms and legs. AFM outbreaks occur every other fall, with this autumn expected to be the next big one.

“We speculate that there will be a slowdown of AFM in this upcoming season because of physical distancing,” says Carlos Pardo-Villamizar, M.D., professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “As different states are managing COVID-19 in different ways, our main concern is if they open schools that would increase the risk of circulating enteroviruses, which could lead to a larger outbreak than anticipated.”

Pardo is available to speak with reporters about what we have discovered to date about AFM and how physicians are preparing for an outbreak in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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