Cases of rare, polio-like condition on the rise

Mysterious 'polio-like' illness AFM is likely more widespread than reported experts say

It affects fewer than one in a million people each year across the country, the CDC estimates.

Of these, 62 have been confirmed by the CDC in 22 states, and the remainder continue to be investigated.

"We're already starting to think about will she be able to drive, will she ever be able to play soccer again", her mother Elizabeth Holcombe said. Children may also have trouble breathing, and in severe cases may require a ventilator due to muscle weakness.

So far, 127 cases in 22 states have been confirmed of acute flaccid myelitis or AFM, the CDC said.

"There is a lot we don't know about AFM", Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the agency's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told the media.

From August 2014 through September 2018, the CDC has received information on a total of 386 confirmed cases of AFM across the United States.

"I encourage parents to seek medical care right away if you or your child develop sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms or legs", Messonnier said.

But while causes have been established in a handful of cases, the majority do not have attributed causes.

"We have [had] two patients we have treated in CHEO for [acute flaccid paralysis] since the summer", said Dr. Sunita Venkateswaran, a pediatric neurogologist with the children's hospital.

"There are now 3 cases under investigation and we don't have any conclusive information at this time", Dr. Burnestine Taylor with the Alabama Department of Public Health said. So unless there are mass outbreaks of viruses that put people into the hospital with serious diseases, doctors and public health officials rarely know what viruses are "going around". Most of the cases have been children.

Messonnier said other viruses besides EV-D68 have been found in patients with AFM. "That is what we are not finding", she said.

If a child "develops weakness of a limb, especially in the context of cold-like symptoms or other viral symptoms, they should see their health-care provider immediately", Toronto's Friedman told CBC. However, they want to stress how rare this condition is. When it infects pregnant women, the Zika virus can go into the brains of the developing fetuses and cause permanent damage. They include West Nile virus, Jamestown Canyon virus, Lacrosse virus, Powassan virus, St. Louis encephalitis and Eastern equine encephalitis. And the CDC recommends staying up to date on vaccines, avoiding mosquito bites, and washing your hands as ways to possibly avoid contracting AFM.

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