Social distancing may reduce polio-like illness in kids this year, experts say

Physicians and health experts are closely watching whether social-distancing precautions for COVID-19 also will help prevent an uptick in cases of a mysterious polio-like condition in children this fall, reports STAT.

Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare condition that damages nerves in the spinal cord, causing muscle weakness or paralysis in children. 

Cases have spiked in late spring or fall every other year since the CDC began tracking the condition in 2014. The CDC reported 35 cases in 2017, 201 in 2018 and 46 cases in 2019. 

The cause of AFM is unknown, although researchers have identified an enterovirus called EV-D68 as the main culprit. Health experts are waiting to see whether social-distancing efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 also will prevent the enterovirus from spreading. 

They are also encouraging clinicians to watch for muscle weakness or slow reflexes in pediatric patients.

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