Updated October 11, 2018 at 3:14 p.m.
Health authorities have stated at least five states – Washington, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota- have reported an unusual spike of cases involving a rare condition that causes limb paralysis and severe muscle weakness in children. Health experts are investing the cause and are trying to confirm new cases of an illness known as Acute Flaccid Myelitis. In those states, the condition coincides with seasonal respiratory illness.
Colorado health experts stated 3 children are suspected to have AFM and are being treated at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and are currently investigating 14 more cases. In Illinois, there were 9 reports of AFM in children younger than 18, all from Northern Illinois. That state had previously recorded only 4 cases since 2015. In Washington, officials stated they are working to confirm whether 5 children recently hospitalized with sudden paralysis of one or more limbs had AFM. In total, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed 38 cases of the polio-like condition across 16 states.
The original story was published on October 08, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. It continues below.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated six children in Minnesota have been diagnosed with a rare polio-like illness since mid-September, all under the age of 10. Acute flaccid myelitis, also known as AFM, affects the body’s nervous system, targeting the spinal cord, and can result in paralysis. Unlike polio, there is no vaccine for AFM.
Minnesota typically sees less than that one case a year, but the disease usually targets children. AFM can be developed from a viral infection, although its exact cause is unknown. Doctors stress the importance of recognizing symptoms early and seek care as soon as possible. Symptoms include onset leg or arm weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial droop, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids or difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.
Some affected by AFM may also be unable to pass urine, and have difficulty breathing, requiring urgent ventricular support. Since there is no specific treatment as of yet, neurologists can recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis, recommending physical or occupational therapy to help with limb weakness.
Health investigators are still trying to figure out how the children contracted the rare disease. For one Minneapolis boy, the toddler began to have trouble moving as he recovered from a cold. Soon after the child developed a fever in July, he started losing mobility in his right arm and had difficulty moving his legs and sitting up.
After several tests, doctors were only able to find a diagnosis after a second MRI, finding abnormality throughout his entire spinal cord. After treatment, the child was able to regain most of his muscle function, expect in his right arm, and is currently in therapy, facing possible surgery. Since 2014, more than 360 cases of AFM have been reported in the United States. Healthcare providers still don’t know the full specifics of the disease and have not found any specific treatment that might be able to avoid the disease overall.
To help lower the risk of getting the rare condition, experts recommend protecting yourself from any bacterial virus by washing your hands often with soap and water, staying up to date with vaccinations to prevent Poliovirus and prevent West Nile Disease by avoiding mosquito bites.