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A Rare Neurological Disease Is Paralyzing Children

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The rise of a rare polio-like illness is now the subject of investigation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a report by the Huffington PostAcute flaccid myelitis – a condition that affects the nervous system – tends to strike children, and doctors are not sure what causes it.

At present, scientists only have a preliminary understanding of how AFM affects children, but the disease seems to affect muscle tone. There is a wide spectrum of muscle weakness associated with the illness, ranging from mild weakness in a single limb to almost complete, long-term paralysis.

Symptoms of AFM include loss of muscle strength, weakness in the limbs and decreased reflexes. Other signs of the illness include slurred speech, difficulty swallowing and droopy eyes.

One alarming fact about AFM is that it can be triggered by common viruses. This means that children can start of with a simple fever or respiratory issues. Because of how AFM starts, parents may not realize that their children need hospitalization.

Even though the number of AFM cases is on the rise, it is important to note that the disease is still extremely rare. Less than one in one million people in the U.S. will experience it.

Dr. Kevin Messacar, a pediatric infectious disease physician and researcher at Children’s Hospital Colorado, states:

This is a very rare condition, but it still is an important condition for the scientific community to learn more about, particularly because of the potential for long-term and disabling consequences. Even though there are very few cases in the country, as researchers and scientists, we need to move the field forward in order to better prevent and treat the condition.

Doctors and scientists are still uncertain what exactly causes AFM, because they have not been able to isolate a germ in a patient’s spinal fluid that would explain what triggered the condition. What they have discovered is that AFM is triggered by a variety of other diseases, including Japanese encephalitis virus, West Nile virus, pneumonia, bladder infection, gastroenteritis, as well as the virus that causes polio and those that can cause the common cold.

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