Published: Thu, October 25, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

CHEO confirms cases of rare polio-like disease

CHEO confirms cases of rare polio-like disease

There have been 386 reported cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)-a serious condition that causes weakness in the arms or legs-in the USA between August 2014 and September 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While it's speculative, many doctors believe those who develop AFM may have an underlying genetic predisposition to the condition.

"We're already starting to think about will she be able to drive, will she ever be able to play soccer again", her mother Elizabeth Holcombe said.

"This is a mystery so far, and we haven't solved it yet, so we have to be thinking broadly", Messonnier said.

"These symptoms are typical of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) and increases of similar cases have been reported by many other North American pediatric centres".

"There is a lot we don't know about AFM", including the cause in a majority of cases, Messonnier said.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health don't know when the cases were originally reported.

Because doctors do not know what virus may be responsible - if it really is a virus - there is no way to vaccinate people against it.

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Palacios says she wants answers to what causes AFM, and how to prevent and treat it - for Abigail, and for other families who have been affected by it.

Friedman said the Sick Kids cases are all among children under 15, with most clustered among kids of preschool age. By then, the body may have cleared the infection itself and tests may not turn up any specific viral cause.

The CDC received information on 33 confirmed cases of AFM in 2017, 149 cases in 2016, 22 cases in 2015, and 120 cases in the latter part of 2014.

"CDC has been actively investigating AFM, testing specimens and monitoring disease since 2014, when we first saw an increase in cases", Messonnier told reporters last week.

The trigger for the condition is unknown, but MRI imaging shows that those with AFM have an inflammatory abnormality in a region of the spinal cord called the anterior horn cell. "That is what we are not finding", she said.

"There are multiple different viruses that can cause this syndrome", Greenberg said. Zika is one of the most notorious recent examples.

Poliovirus and West Nile virus may sometimes lead to AFM.

Messonnier said parents (and kids) need to take preventative steps, such as washing their hands (the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infections), using insect repellent and staying current on all immunizations, to help fight the virus causing AFM.

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