Rare, polio-like disease affecting children in U.S., says CDC

12 October, 2018, 11:28 | Author: Cynthia Curry
  • Six Minnesota children diagnosed with rare polio-like disease

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has received recent reports from health care providers of nine sporadic, clinically diagnosed cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said as of Sep 30, there have been 38 cases reported from 16 states. Fourteen cases have been reported in Colorado and six in Minnesota, a lot of them children.

"This includes cases of meningitis, encephalitis, and acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) as well as children experiencing myoclonus (abnormal muscle jerking) and ataxia (loss of balance)". They can also cause neurologic illness, such as meningitis, encephalitis, and AFM, but these are rare.

While we don't know if it is effective in preventing AFM, washing your hands often with soap and water is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to other people.

Health investigators are still trying to figure out how the children contracted the rare disease.

CDC specialists will make the final determination as to whether the cases in Washington are AFM, state health officials said. Its origins are a mystery, but officials say a virus can cause some cases.

The six Minnesota children are all 10 and younger and are in the Twin Cities, central and northeastern Minnesota.

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"We don't yet have any effective treatment for the virus or for the condition", Messacar said. After treatment, the child was able to regain most of his muscle function, expect in his right arm, and is now in therapy, facing possible surgery.

Affected muscles may remain weak, but it's possible to strengthen surrounding muscles so kids regain movement, Messacar said. Some people may be unable to urinate, and, in severe cases, a person can suffer respiratory failure and must be put on a ventilator.

One victim, 5-year-old Carter Roberts of Chesterfield, Virginia, died last month after developing AFM in 2016. A doctor can also do an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to look at a patient's brain and spinal cord, do lab tests on the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid around the brain and spinal cord) and may check nerve conduction (impulse sent along a nerve fiber) and response.

But there's not much else that parents can do to protect their children.

The condition can sometimes come on as a complication after a viral infection, or after a respiratory illness. Doctors stress the importance of recognizing the early signs of AFM and seeking care as soon as possible.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written by Maggie Fox, NBC News.

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