Published: Fri, October 19, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Most states facing confirmed or possible cases of polio-like illness

Most states facing confirmed or possible cases of polio-like illness

Benson said she's hopeful there won't be a lot more cases in MA since the season is likely coming to a close. There was one confirmed death previous year, the CDC said on Tuesday.

Any child experiencing weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms and legs should be examined immediately.

Symptoms of AFM include neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop, and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

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Since the condition was first recognized by CDC in 2014, the agency has confirmed 386 cases nationally through October 16, mostly in children.

The average age of patients with confirmed cases of AFM is 4 years old, according to the CDC.

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"We understand that people, particularly parents, are concerned", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director for the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a teleconference call with reporters.

The disease is extremely rare, with the CDC estimating that less than one in a million people in the United States will get AFM every year. The CDC says the main culprit can be a virus, environmental toxins, or genetic disorders.

The mystery disease may be caused by an enterovirus or rhinovirus, but these viruses have been found only in a few patients, which does not explain the increased number of cases at the end of summer.

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for AFM, though the CDC says neurologists may suggest options on a case-by-case basis.

Kelsey Gregory, a nurse practitioner with Premier Family Care in Harrison, said, "They are terming it as a polio-like virus, but none of the confirmed cases have been caused by the actual polio virus".

The cause of most of the AFM incidents is unknown, according to the CDC, as are the long-term effects.

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"I think I would tell parents to be vigilant in looking out for, you know, arms or legs not working, that floppy head, those respiratory symptoms that don't seem consistent with other basic illnesses", she said.

While the cause of AFM is not clear, experts say it can occur as a result of a variety of viral illnesses including the polio virus, enteroviruses, West Nile virus, and adenoviruses. Officials said some patients diagnosed with AFM recover quickly, while others need ongoing care.

"However, the CDC did not consistently detect EV-D68 in every child with confirmed AFM", he told Healthline in an email.

There is no treatment specifically for AFM, but affected children can undergo physical and occupational therapy to maximize their strength and adapt to their limitations.

Parents can best protect their children from serious diseases by taking prevention steps, such as washing their hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites.

He stresses that the condition is still extremely rare with only one in a million children now diagnosed. In 2015, the CDC identified 22 patients who exhibited symptoms of AFM. Some merely have difficulty moving the eye or the face; some have a single weakening limb.

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Depending on which part of the spine is damaged, different muscles can become weak or paralyzed.

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