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What is acute flaccid myelitis? Polio-like illness reported among US children

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Monday, October 15, 2018

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ATLANTA, Ga., - In the recent week, there have been 38 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis across 16 states this year, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials are investigating the spike, which has caused paralysis and muscle weakness among infected children in Philadelphia, Texas, Minnesota, Washington, Illinois and other states.

"The cause of most of the AFM cases remains unknown," the CDC noted on its AFM explainer page. The agency also doesn't know what caused the increase, who is at higher risk or the long-term effects of AFM. "We know that some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly, and some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care," officials wrote.

The CDC is monitoring disease activity, working with health care officials and encouraging providers to recognize and report suspected cases to their health departments.

Symptoms of AFM
The rare disease, which affects a person's nervous system, has typically afflicted children. Symptoms include facial droopiness, weakness, slurred speech, muscle tone loss, difficulty swallowing and in severe cases, the illness may lead to paralysis. Such symptoms are similar to those of certain viruses, such as poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses and West Nile Virus.

In 2014, there were a whopping 120 AFM cases confirmed across 34 states largely due to a national outbreak of the severe respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D68. Since then, there have been 362 cases of AFM recorded in the United States.

Treatment of AFM
While there is no known treatment for AFM, neurologists may recommend physical or occupational therapy to help with AFM-related muscle or limb weakness.

How to prevent AFM
According to the CDC, you can take the same precautions you'd take to avoid poliovirus or West Nile, such as:
 - Getting vaccinated.
 - Use mosquito repellant to avoid mosquito bites.
 - Stay indoors at dusk and dawn, when bites are most common.
 - Remove standing or stagnant water near your home, where mosquitoes may breed.
 - Wash your hands often with soap and water to avoid spreading germs and getting sick.

For more information on AFM, visit www.cdc.gov.

Author: Fiza Pirani
Source: ajc
2.75
2.8 from 4 votes
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