Polio-like disease increasing in children


XENIA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is coordinating with state and local health departments to investigate suspected cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) throughout the nation.

More than 90 percent of the confirmed cases across the U.S. have occurred in children age 18 years and younger. Although this condition is not new, the increase in cases nationally is. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has four cases of AFM confirmed by CDC in Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Mercer and Pickaway and counties.

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a condition that affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, which can result from a variety of causes. Practicing good hygiene is one way to avoid diseases that can cause AFM.

Greene County Public Health officials aim to educate the public on AFM so families can be on the lookout for this condition. CDC estimates that less than one in a million people in the United States will get AFM every year. There are a variety of possible causes of AFM, such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. However, a cause for AFM cannot always be identified. Most of the cases that CDC has learned about have been in children.

Symptoms

Most people will have sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes. Some people, in addition to arm or leg weakness, will have:

— facial droop/weakness,

— difficulty moving the eyes,

— drooping eyelids, or

— difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech.

Rare symptoms include numbness or tingling in the limbs and being unable to pass urine. In rare cases, a patient may have difficulty breathing due to muscle weakness and require urgent ventilator support.

If you or your child develops any of these symptoms, you should seek medical care right away.

Diagnosis

A doctor can tell the difference between AFM and other diseases with a careful examination of the nervous system and the spinal cord, looking at the location of the weakness, muscle tone, and reflexes.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for AFM, but a neurologist may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis.

Prevention

Poliovirus and West Nile virus may sometimes lead to AFM.

— Being up to date on all recommended vaccinations, including poliovirus, is one way to protect against diseases that can cause AFM.

— Protect against bites from mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile virus, by using mosquito repellent, staying indoors at dusk and dawn (when bites are more common), and removing standing or stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed.

While it is not known if it is effective in preventing AFM, everyone should wash hands often with soap and water; avoid close contact with sick people, and clean surfaces with a disinfectant, especially surfaces that a sick person has touched.

Washing hands the right way is one of the best things people can do to protect against getting sick. Wash hands often, and especially before touching food; after going to the bathroom, blowing your nose, changing a baby’s diaper, or touching an animal, an animal’s food, urine, or feces; and before and after taking care of a sick person or a cut or wound.

For more information on AFM, visit www.cdc.gov/acute-flaccid-myelitis/about-afm.html or call 937-374-5600 and ask to speak to the communicable disease nurse.