Polio-Like Disease Striking Children: What You Need to Know

Henrietta Strickland
October 19, 2018

It has received reports of 127 patients under investigation for the condition.

The most diagnosed group is children, usually found years old or younger.

"Many times it can start with what looks like a respiratory illness, a little bit of a fever", Narula said.

So far this year the CDC confirmed 62 cases in 22 states.

A risky and rare disease that's similar to the polio virus is on the rise in the United States, and it has health officials baffled. In total, there have been 386 confirmed cases since 2014. Though AFM has not claimed any lives this year, there was one death in 2017.

Many other aspects of the illness remain unknown, including what factors puts a person at risk of becoming ill and the long-term consequences.

The rare illness affects the nervous system and spinal cord, causing muscle-weakness and reflexes in the body to weaken.

The CDC also hasn't ruled out either environmental toxins or some sort of autoimmune disorder as potential causes of AFM, Messonnier added.

AFM is still a mystery to health care officials. "The data on the recently reported cluster of cases of AFM will have to be carefully evaluated to better understand the role of EV-D68 in this new outbreak".

The agency has not yet confirmed whether the New Hampshire patient, a juvenile from Rockingham County, contracted AFM or if it is another illness, said Jake Leon, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Some children with AFM recover full motion and strength-usually within a few months-whereas in others the nerve damage seems permanent, she says. The disease appears to peak between August and October and spikes on alternate years, but diagnosis has been on the rise since 2014 and scientists have no idea why. She also emphasizes it is extremely rare, striking about one in a million children, so parents should not panic-but they should seek medical attention if their child shows signs of sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in their arms or legs.

Some patients recover quickly, while others experience paralysis and require ongoing care. Messonnier said West Nile virus, which had been listed as a possible cause on CDC's website, is also not causing the illnesses.

Health officials do not know what's causing the increasing number of cases of AFM.

Those cases were partly attributed to certain strains of respiratory germs called enteroviruses, which spread the most during the summer and fall.

Doctors also aren't anxious about it spreading from child to child in schools because children are exposed to the viruses all the time. In 2015, the CDC identified 22 patients who exhibited symptoms of AFM.

The CDC encourages people to prevent the disease by staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and protecting against mosquito bites.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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