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What is acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), the polio-like illness causing worry?
18 October 2018, 12:27 | Melissa Porter
The Department of Public Health has confirmed the second MA case this year of a rare but potentially devastating illness that strikes mostly children and causes muscle weakness or paralysis. "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".
The cause of most of the AFM incidents is unknown, according to the CDC, as are the long-term effects. Another spike came in 2016. Working with local and state health departments and hospitals, the CDC has been able to confirm a number of these cases faster, she said.
Doctors don't know much about AFM and the lack of answers is what is worrying Doug and Mary Finke. It affects fewer than one in a million people each year across the country, the CDC estimates.
"As a parent myself, I understand what it is like to be scared for your child".
The outlook for patients with AFM can vary from a quick recovery to ongoing paralysis, Messonnier said. Most of the cases are in children under the age of 19, with kids under the age of 4 appearing to make up the biggest portion of cases.
Fauci emphasized that, while parents might understandably be anxious, AFM is "very rare".
Although some AFM patients tested positive for an enterovirus, indicating a possible link, not all had the virus.
Messonnier said some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly while others continue to struggle with paralysis. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states.
Messonnier said that officials have not been able to find the cause of the illness.
The agency doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing this condition or the reasons they may be at higher risk. No pathogen has been consistently detected in the patients' spinal fluid.
She recommended that parents take routine protections against viral infections, such as keeping up to date on immunizations, washing hands, and avoiding mosquito bites.
Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for AFM, though the CDC says neurologists may suggest options on a case-by-case basis. But, if their child is diagnosed, parents should prepare for extensive physical therapy - therapy that isn't always covered by insurance, he said. It could be potentially deadly if the diaphragm is paralyzed because the child would be unable to breathe.
The following year, there were 22 confirmed cases in 17 states, and 2016 saw 149 cases in 39 jurisdictions, including D.C. In 2017 there were 33 confirmed cases in 16 states. It's a rare disease, but the CDC thought that they might glean more about the nature of the outbreak, as well as clues about how to contain it, by releasing a report to the public.
States are not required to provide this information to the CDC but have been voluntarily reporting their data.
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