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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigating rise of paralysis-causing syndrome

Posted at 5:45 PM, Oct 05, 2016

The disease is called acute flaccid myelitis or AFM.

Last year there were 21 cases.  Since the start of this year, there’s been 50 cases reported in 24 states. Ninety percent of them are children. 

AFM affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. This can result in paralysis, which in severe cases can be permanent.

AFM can result from a variety of germs and viruses. The CDC lists enteroviruses like polio, along with the West Nile virus, the Saint Louis encephalitis virus and adenoviruses.

Question: What are the symptoms?

Be on the lookout for facial drooping or weakness, problems moving the eyes or droopy eyelids, difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

You need to contact a doctor immediately if you or your child start having problems walking or standing, or if suddenly you have weakness in an arm or leg.

Prevention is the best way to protect yourself and family. So here are my prescriptions:

  1. Clean Your Hands Often with Soap and Water. Do this before touching food, after using the bathroom and blowing your nose.
  2. Remind Your Children to Wash Their Hands, especially at busy places like schools.
  3. Use Insect Repellents or Stay Indoors at Dusk and Dawn. Mosquitoes are still out there and this lowers your risk for mosquito-borne illnesses.
  4. Be Sure Your Family is Up-to-Date on Vaccinations. Check with your doctor and confirm everyone’s had the poliovirus vaccine.

Question: Is there treatment for AFM?

Right now there is no specific treatment for acute flaccid myelitis. 

A neurologist that specializes in brain and spinal cord illnesses can treat AFM using certain interventions. It’s handled on a case-by-case basis. 

The good news is AFM is still a rare illness and affects less than 1 in a million people.