Five suspected cases of polio-like illness in Arkansas

Five kids in Maryland may have a polio-like disease, as CDC investigates

Five kids in Maryland may have a polio-like disease, as CDC investigates

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention this week issued a warning about a disease known as acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), an illness it says it knows very little about but can cause arm or leg weakness and paralysis, particularly in children.

AFM can arise after an infection and affects the nervous system, according to health officials. The total reported number for this year is 127, but the CDC has only confirmed 62 of those cases so far. At least 90 percent of the cases are among patients 18 and younger.

AFM grabbed attention in 2014, when 120 cases were reported nationally.

Officials call the condition acute flaccid myelitis or afm. So while it is a scary condition, it is also extremely rare and affects less than one in every million people in the United States - even with the spike in cases.

"I am frustrated that despite all our efforts we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", Messonnier said.

The CDC also hasn't ruled out either environmental toxins or some sort of autoimmune disorder as potential causes of AFM, Messonnier added. CDC has been actively investigating these AFM cases, and we continue to receive information about suspected AFM cases.

Symptoms tend to occur about a week after they had a fever and respiratory illness. In some cases, patients recover quickly. But some states have previously announced clusters, including Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, New York and Washington.

The two cases this year were in the southern and southeastern parts of the state. "In this cases it's unknown", Ehresmann said. It's a sudden onset of weakness in usually a leg or an arm.

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Some children with AFM recover full motion and strength-usually within a few months-whereas in others the nerve damage seems permanent, she says.

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.

Unfortunately, there is now no specific treatment plan for the disease, though medics may advise physical or occupational therapy on a case-by-case basis.

For example, the CDC doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or why some are at higher risk, she said.

Wolfson Children's Hospital wants to make sure parents know this is not an outbreak.

The 2014 outbreak of AFM coincided with a surge of another virus that caused severe respiratory problems, called EV-D68, However, the CDC could not establish a causal link between AFM and the virus.

He says he has had very good outcomes in 14 of the 15 patients; the one girl who did not regain full function had "a suboptimal result, but [her parents are] happy she got something back".

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