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Polio-Like Disease Striking Children: What You Need to Know

20 October 2018

In 2014 the CDC said there was a spike in the AFM virus, with 120 people afflicted with it from August to December of that year in 34 states.

On a Facebook page dedicated to the disease, one parent posted that her daughter was diagnosed with AFM four years ago after catching enterovirus.

Viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders are among the suspected causes of the illness, which often begins with fever, respiratory issues and muscle weakness.

It's possible that some milder cases haven't been reported by doctors to their state health department or to the CDC, but Messonnier said she believes the number of such cases would be small, NPR reported. In 2017 were recorded 21 cases of the disease.

The virus has been confirmed for 62 cases in 22 states, including seven in Minnesota, according to media reports.

"We need to pay attention to this, because the long-term consequences the children and their parents suffer is huge", said Dr. Carlos Pardo-Villamizar, a neurological disease expert with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Some with AFM will feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes. What happens to patients down the line is unclear; some recover quickly, while others may need long-term care.

Cases have been reported in 22 states, including some in our area.

"Then she woke up one day and said, 'Mommy, I can't walk, '" recalled Gary, of DeBary.

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"(Parents) should not panic", said Dr. Michael Sweeney, a neurologist at Norton Children's Hospital and the University of Louisville.

Messonnier said it was important for parents and clinicians to remember that this is a rare condition, affecting less than one in 1 million children under 18.

Symptoms of AFM are similar to polio. Those who are exposed to mosquitoes (which may carry West Nile virus) can use clothing and repellent to protect themselves from possible exposure. Here's what puzzles health officials about AFM: The cause is still unknown.

The cases in 2014 and 2016 were partly attributed to particular strains of respiratory germs called enteroviruses, which spread the most in the summer and fall.

"Even if you diagnose it, you're managing symptoms", Rathore said. "Our medical team has been reviewing vaccine records when available during this year's investigation and do not see a correlation", said CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund. "The data on the recently reported cluster of cases of AFM will have to be carefully evaluated to better understand the role of EV-D68 in this new outbreak".

For example, the CDC doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or why some are at higher risk, she said. CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide variety of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM. In addition, unlike with polio, most children recover, though some require ongoing treatment.

In September, Pardo-Villamizar and his colleagues published a follow-up of 16 patients stricken in 2016 that concluded that "the majority of children with AFM have limited motor recovery and continued disability".

"Early intervention is definitely always helpful".

Polio-Like Disease Striking Children: What You Need to Know