CDC Confirms Rare Polio-Like Virus Acute Flaccid Myelitis in 22 States

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"We want to encourage parents to seek medical care right away if you or your child develops symptoms of AFM, such as sudden weakness and loss of muscle tone in your arms or legs", she said. It primarily occurs in children.

Dr. Leslie Benson, assistant director of Children's pediatric neuroimmunology program, said AFM patients show a wide spectrum of symptoms. "The hallmark is sudden onset of weakness in the arms or the legs".

Other symptoms of AFM include facial droop, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech. Some patients may not be able to urinate.

"Numbness or tingling is rare in people with AFM, although some people have pain in their arms or legs". Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 62 cases this year and a total of 386 since 2014. The CDC is now investigating a potential case of AFM in New Hampshire, an official said Wednesday. However, the illness has been on the rise in the US since 2014. This condition is not new, but the increase in cases we saw starting in 2014 is new ...

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.

"Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause", Messonnier said, dispelling reports that AFM was possibly linked to polio. The illness has been compared to the polio and West Nile viruses.

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What can be done to prevent AFM?

There is no specific treatment for AFM, according to the CDC, although neurologists might recommend things like physical therapy to help treat muscle weakness on a case-by-case basis.

More broadly, she noted, "there is a lot we don't know about AFM". Some treatments such as high doses of steroids are used, but it is not certain they work. None of the US patients tested positive for polio, a crippling and often deadly disease which was eliminated in this country thanks to the polio vaccine. CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide range of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM.

There are now more than 125 confirmed or suspected cases of acute flaccid myelitis - the "mystery illness" that's been affecting children across the United States and leaving them paralyzed. There is a vaccine for polio.

On a Facebook page dedicated to the disease, one parent posted that her daughter was diagnosed with AFM four years ago after catching enterovirus. What happens to patients down the line is unclear; some recover quickly, while others may need long-term care.

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