Health officials: 3 cases of rare polio-like disease in Georgia

Health officials: 3 cases of rare polio-like disease in Georgia

Of the cases announced Tuesday, 62 have been confirmed in 22 states, according to Nancy Messonnier, a top official at the CDC.

Some children may have mild symptoms, but AFM doesn't just sneak up on its victims. For example, 11 of the Colorado cases of AFM this year have tested positive for EV A71, a rare type of enterovirus not usually seen in the USA, rather in Asia and other parts of the world, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.

Since August 2014, CDC has seen an increased number of people across the United States with AFM.

"In most (AFM) cases, there appears to be what we call residual weakness, where the patient is unfortunately weak for a long period of time and may not recover or may not recover completely", said Dr. John Modlin, a Dartmouth College professor emeritus who is now the deputy director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's effort to eradicate polio. Doctors have tested AFM sufferers for poliovirus but the results came back negative.

Acute flaccid myelitis affects the spinal cord and can cause partial paralysis.

In the most severe cases, the muscles that control breathing are weakened to the point the patient requires ventilator. "There are a few viruses that can do this", she said. We don't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or the reasons why they may be at higher risk.

For 3-year-old Camden Stravers, what his parents thought was the common cold developed into something far worse.

"As a parent myself, I understand what it is like to be scared for your child".

"Treatment options are quite limited", he said. If they are having pain, we treat their pain.

It's important for parents to know the symptoms so they can get their child immediate medical care and help doctors get a handle on the disease.

Why is it being described as polio-like?

"And, really, polio is the classic thing that does that or did that".

Although the condition is very rare, Health & Wellness is advising families to make sure their children's vaccinations are up to date, especially against polio; to avoid mosquito bites because West Nile may be a factor; and to practice good hand washing.

Despite the recent spike in reported cases of AFM, Messonnier underscored that the disease is "incredibly rare" and has been diagnosed annually at a rate of less than one in a million since 2014. "And it didn't feel rare during those clusters on a neurology ward, but in between those clusters, we really don't see this condition often at all".

What are the symptoms to watch for?

The cases this year seem to be spread across much of the country, as were the earlier two waves. "Those are the biggest, first signs that there's something going on". Symptoms include muscle weakness, droopy eyelids, problems swallowing, and slurred speech.

He stresses that the condition is still extremely rare with only one in a million children now diagnosed.

Kristen Ehresmann, director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control at the Minnesota Department of Health, told Healthline, "it's very concerning".

"So other than kind of general precautions, there's not a lot to do", she said.

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