Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) recently emerged in the United States as a rare but serious neurological condition since 2012. Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is thought to be a main causative agent, but limited surveillance of EV-D68 in the United States has hampered the ability to assess their causal relationship. Using surveillance data from the BioFire Syndromic Trends epidemiology network in the United States from January 2014 to September 2019, we characterized the epidemiological dynamics of EV-D68 and found latitudinal gradient in the mean timing of EV-D68 cases, which are likely climate driven. We also demonstrated a strong spatiotemporal association of EV-D68 with AFM. Mathematical modeling suggested that the recent dominant biennial cycles of EV-D68 dynamics may not be stable. Nonetheless, we predicted that a major EV-D68 outbreak, and hence an AFM outbreak, would have still been possible in 2020 under normal epidemiological conditions. Nonpharmaceutical intervention efforts due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are likely to have reduced the sizes of EV-D68 and AFM outbreaks in 2020, illustrating the broader epidemiological impact of the pandemic.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes