‘Acute Flaccid Myelitis’ Causing Polio-Like Symptoms In Midwest Children


Reports surfaced on Wednesday that two Chicago-area children are being treated at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago for the illness - including 2-year-old Julia Payne, who has been fighting the illness for almost a month. The illnesses are described as having "polio-like symptoms".

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there have been 38 confirmed cases of AFM so far this year - with the most cases, 14, reported in Colorado and six in Minnesota.

All cases in Minnesota have been in children under 10 years old and also included hospitalization in Twin Cities, central Minnesota and northeastern Minnesota.

Minnesota has noticed a spike in suspected AFM cases in recent weeks.

AFM has been around for a while, but the CDC notes that there have been increases in the number of cases reported starting in 2014.

The CDC says it got information on 362 cases of the illness in the USA from August 2014 through August 2018.

Symptoms include a sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and difficulty moving facial muscles.

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At this point, doctors are not required to report AFM to the state, so it is possible that there could be unreported cases out there, according to DSHS. However, even that may not be enough as AFM can also come on due to environmental factors and genetic disorders. In Washington, health officials say five children have been hospitalized. It affects a person's nervous system, specifically the spinal cord.

The outcomes for those afflicted are varied, she said, with some patients recovering fully and others dealing with some level of paralysis for the rest of their lives. The causes of cases are often not confirmed.

The CDC3 does not advocate the use of steroids, IVig, or plasma exchange in AFM, but individuals with AFM or caregivers of children with AFM should discuss treatment recommendations with their physician.

There is no treatment other than managing each patient's symptoms. One hundred forty-nine cases were reported in 39 states in 2016 and 22 cases in 17 states in 2015.

In Chicago, doctors say Julia Payne had an enterovirus that caused the AFM.

In 2017, 33 cases were reported in 16 states.

Though the CDC says it's not necessarily proven to guard against AFM, they recommend frequent hand-washing with soap and water.