Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Spike reported nationwide in cases of baffling paralysis in children

Melissa Porter | 17 October, 2018, 22:56

There are now five possible cases of a polio-like illness in Maryland, health officials confirm.

First recognized in 2014, AFM remains mysterious. It follows a peculiar seasonal pattern, with the highest incidence occurring every other year in late summer or fall. No one knows what causes AFM, although a virus or viruses are suspected. Some of the symptoms include sudden muscle weakness or paralysis in the arms or legs and weak or stiff neck.

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"We know this can be frightening for parents, and I know many parents want to know what signs and symptoms they should be looking out for in their children", Messonnier said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 62 cases of acute flaccid myelitis, a rare, polio-like condition that causes weakness in the arms or legs, across 22 states.

Extremely. According to the CDC, there were 38 confirmed cases in 16 states this year through September 30. The average age of affected patients is just four.

"We have not been able to find a cause for the majority of these AFM cases", she said. Some children paralyzed by AFM have eventually regained their ability to walk, but need time.

Media reports in recent weeks have suggested that a "polio-like virus" might be triggering the condition, elevating fears that it might be polio itself.

"There is a lot we don't know about AFM and I am frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", Messonnier said.

And despite the resemblance to polio, officials have ruled out poliovirus as a cause of the illnesses. One child died from AFM in 2017.

There is no specific treatment for the disorder, and long-term outcomes are unknown.

"It's rare, but certainly when you hear about it it's very scary for parents", CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula told "CBS This Morning".

The CDC is actively investigating and monitoring disease activity and recommends taking standard prevention measures such as hand-washing, protecting oneself from mosquito bites and staying up-to-date on vaccinations. Symptom onset is generally quite sudden, and Messonnier urged parents to seek medical care quickly for children displaying these symptoms. Some merely have difficulty moving the eye or the face; some have a single weakening limb.

In the most severe cases, the muscles that control breathing are weakened to the point the patient requires ventilator.

People can protect themselves from contracting AFM using methods similar to preventing getting the flu, Ellerin said.