Local doctors: Chances of AFM extremely low, despite rising number of cases

Five kids in Maryland may have a polio-like disease, as CDC investigates

Five kids in Maryland may have a polio-like disease, as CDC investigates

The paralysis sets in about a week after the children have come down with fever and respiratory illness.

To help prevent the illness' spread, the CDC advises proper hand washing, staying up to date on vaccines and using mosquito repellent to avoid bites.

AFM outbreaks appear to follow a pattern, according to the CDC report, with a spike in cases coming every two years in the late summer and early fall. As pediatrician Ashanti Woods said, it behaves more like polio. So far this year, there have been 62 confirmed cases in 22 states. So while it is a scary condition, it is also extremely rare and affects less than one in every million people in the USA - even with the spike in cases. But it can be a serious, debilitating disease.

Unfortunately, there's no specific treatment for AFM. "And he's had a lot of support at school with physical therapy".

The CDC says there are preventative measures people can take to reduce the risk of infections that could lead to AFM. It is also not known exactly what the long-term implications of the disease are. Such outbreaks have arrived every 2 years since 2014, and the CDC's current tally includes almost 400 confirmed cases over the past 4 years.

In some cases patients recover from the paralysis, but in others it continues.

But some state health departments have been making public their reported cases. Carlos Pardo-Villamizar, a neurologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Transverse Myelitis Center, said that the mystery lies in whether the damage seen in AFM is caused by an external agent or the body's own defenses. The CDC does note that certain viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders are possible causes.

Possible causes being considered include viruses that affect the digestive system called enteroviruses, and possibly strains of rhinoviruses, which cause the common cold, she said.

It shows distinct abnormalities of the spinal cord gray matter on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The illness has been compared to the polio and West Nile viruses. "We don't know if it's a virus or an autoimmune process that's secondary to the virus".

Other enteroviruses have also been found in patients with AFM.

Officials said they will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases. "If you miss it, you're not missing a treatment".

U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are asking the Centers for Disease Control for more information about a mysterious disease that causes paralysis. A study published last year found 6 of 8 children in Colorado with acute flaccid myelitis still struggled with motor skills one year after their diagnosis.

"[The CDC] should make AFM reporting mandatory", said Gary, who also has a 2 ½ year-old daughter.

Parents of a sick child should be on the lookout for any signs of weakness in the arms or legs, Pardo-Villamizar said.

She emphasized the AFM cases are very rare, affecting 1 in 1 million people, and the condition is not caused by poliovirus, though symptoms can be similar to polio.

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