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CDC urges parents to look for symptoms of the rare “polio-like” disease in children

DETROIT – Just as parents are increasingly concerned about the impact COVID-19 will have on back to school, the CDC has issued a warning about another disease.

The warning comes just a week after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported the first confirmed case of the state of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare condition that attacks the nervous system, particularly in children.

TO READ: Michigan confirms first 2020 case of rare “polio-like”

; disease in Macomb County child

There are also two other suspected cases of AFM in Michigan – here’s what parents need to know:

Cases of acute flaccid myelitis have been tracked in the United States since 2014 – that year there were 120 cases in 34 states, including four in Michigan.

2015 saw a drop in cases to 22. In 2016, there was another resurgence of 153 cases with one in Michigan. Cases nationwide dropped to 38 in 2017 just before 2018 had the highest number of cases so far with 238 cases in 42 states, including five cases in Michigan.

Last year, the expected drop in cases every two years occurred with 48 cases nationwide.

Every two years, peaks occur between August and November. The last increase was in 2018, making this year a concern. So far, there have already been 16 cases nationwide in 10 states.

AFM is considered rare, but it is a potentially life-threatening medical emergency that can lead to permanent paralysis. The maximum age of onset is 5 years, but it can also occur in infants and older children.

The primary symptom parents should pay attention to is sudden limb weakness or paralysis, often related to or following a respiratory illness with fever. Arm weakness is more common than leg weakness. Other additional symptoms with weakness include back pain, headache, and difficulty walking.

We don’t know for sure what causes AFM, but it’s thought to be related to a viral infection, possibly an enterovirus, which is common in the summer and fall.

Diagnosis is based on specific MRI findings, a lumbar puncture is also done to look for other potential causes of the weakness. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment yet, but it is important to make an early diagnosis and provide supportive care because it can progress to respiratory failure.

Among doctors, a serious concern is that due to COVID-19, there may be reluctance on the part of many people to seek medical help, especially the emergency room. A diagnosis could be delayed leading to worse results. I have the same advice, if you have an emergency you have to go to the hospital.

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