Cases of the "polio-like" illness acute flaccid myelitis are surfacing among more children across the USA, with reports of the condition that can lead to paralysis and death coming in from several states over the last few days.
What is acute flaccid myelitis?
A study of children diagnosed with AFM in Colorado in 2014 found that majority were better one year later, although most also had residual weakness in their arms and legs.
Some viruses and germs have been linked to AFM, including common germs that can cause colds and sore throats, and respiratory infections.
The health department says there are no specific recommendations for avoiding AFM, but washing your hands, avoiding close contact with sick people, cleaning surfaces with disinfectants, and staying up-to-date on immunizations is recommended.
The CDC says there have been a total of 362 cases nationally between August 2014 and August 2018, with 38 confirmed cases so far this year.
The cases involve infants and children under the age of six who all reportedly had symptoms of a respiratory illness in the week prior to developing symptoms of AFM.
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"Scientifically, we don't understand why only some children will go on to develop AFM", Schleiss said. Acute flaccid myelitis is tricky to diagnose and may require tests of spinal fluid, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
During 2015, CDC did not receive information about large EV-D68 outbreaks in the United States, and laboratories reported only limited EV-D68 detections to CDC's National Enterovirus Surveillance System (NESS).
"Some children have persisting swallowing problems so they're still dealing with the complications of using a feeding tube". This condition is not new, but the increase in cases we saw starting in 2014 is new. "I urge the CDC to provide more information immediately about preventive measures and treatments".
Also this week, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced that 14 cases of AFM have occurred in the state this year. The severe form the disease can cause neurologic symptoms, including encephalitis and AFM.
"Not because it's happening more it's just that we're recognizing it more", Dr. Esper says. The average for the state is less than one case a year. However, doctors who specialize in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis.
The disease is known to hit the nervous system by traveling through the spinal cord. And there are other diseases that mimic the symptoms, such as West Nile virus and Guillain Barre syndrome.