Scary childhood illness in NJ - what we know and don't

18 October, 2018, 04:57 | Author: Judith Dennis
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A "polio-like illness" that affects children is spreading across the United States and has now been found in 22 states, CNN reported Wednesday.

Health officials in 22 states have reported at least 62 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis in 2018 so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In some individuals, health officials have determined that the condition was from infection with a type of virus that causes severe respiratory illness. "Most of the cases that CDC has learned about have been in children", said the CDC. A seventh case has been "clinically diagnosed", but remains under review by the CDC.

History: The CDC has no idea why there has been a spike in cases, though there have been similar spikes in 2014 and 2016, according to Fox News.

"It can be caused by viruses, it can be caused by environmental factors or possibly a genetic disorder", Nesemeier said.

However, the CDC says they know that some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly, and some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care.

"A doctor can examine a patient's nervous system and the places on the body where he or she has weakness, poor muscle tone, and decreased reflexes". Besides a sudden onset of paralysis or weakness in the limbs, some patients experience drooping of their face or eyelids, difficulty swallowing or moving the eyes, and slurred speech. It's also important to note that the number of known or suspected cases is small, so the odds of contracting the illness are extremely low. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said.

What is acute flaccid myelitis? So far, 2016 was the worst year, with 149 confirmed cases.

While just one person in a million gets it every year, it's a growing health concern.

Dr. Leslie Benson, assistant director of Children's pediatric neuroimmunology program, said AFM patients show a wide spectrum of symptoms.

There is no specific treatment for AFM.

The Douglas County Health Department's Phil Rooney said, "This is not a diagnosis like flu or other diseases where you can do blood draw fluids".

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

Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist who has treated children with AFM at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, said AFM is "exquisitely rare". 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.

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