WEST READING, Pa. — Scientists are still hypothesizing about what causes acute flaccid myelitis to manifest in some children.
"There seems to be a link between acute flaccid myelitis and a particular family of viruses called the enteroviruses," said Dr. Christopher Valente, the chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Reading Hospital.
The complication affects the nerves of the spinal cord and can cause symptoms of weakness or paralysis.
"Most children who are affected by this have had some kind of viral illness, usually an upper respiratory illness, in the roughly 3-10 day period prior to their neurologic symptom onset," Valente explained.
He said while cases overall are very infrequent, there has been an increase in recent years statewide, and it has been seen in Berks County.
"It's very scary just because of the severity of the symptoms," said Valente. "These viruses are rampant, even this season. We're seeing a ton of both respiratory viruses and particularly enteroviruses."
Valente said the symptoms can vary and are sometimes subtle but can resemble stroke symptoms.
"In these cases," Valente said, "children can get drooping of the face or eyelids, slurred speech or difficulty swallowing, and they can get weakness of their extremities."
According to Valente, education and awareness are key. He said the best way to prevent the complication is to practice basic hygiene to prevent the spread of viruses, many of the same measures people were taking at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Things like handwashing and covering mouths, covering coughs, and limiting physical contact is really important," he said.
If you notice symptoms like those in your child, have them seen by a doctor.