CDC Issues an Alert about Rare Polio-Like Disorder Affecting Children


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn of an increase in cases of a rare condition that can affect children and is similar to Polio. A recently released health alert said so.

The alert detailed a rise in severe respiratory illness this fall that can lead to a condition called Acute flaccid Myelitis (AFM.

According to the CDC, AFM is a severe neurological condition that affects the nervous system — specifically the spinal cord —  and causes loss of reflexes, a sudden unexplained weakness or paralysis of the arms or legs, with more than 90% of cases occurring in young children.

“The warning sign is often, a child who’s recovering from a routine illness and then the recovery stops looking like what you would expect — they’re now getting worse again, and especially if they become weak,” Dr. Matt Elrick ABC News. Elrick is an assistant professor in neurology at Kennedy Krieger Institute and specializes on AFM. 

“This is exceptionally rare even during an outbreak so it’s not something that should necessarily keep everyone up at night,” Elrick continued. 

“But if your child has an illness and was recovering and is now getting worse again, or not behaving in the way that you might expect the normal recovery from illness to be, that’s a good reason to go see the pediatrician and sort out what’s going on.”

AFM cases typically begin in the fall or early summer. 

As of Sept. 2, there were 13 confirmed cases across nine states this year.

The CDC had previously observed an increase of AFM. In 2014, 2016, and 2018.

“We really thought this was going to happen in 2020, because we had the last spike in 2018,”Dr. Sarah Hopkins, pediatric neurologists at Children’s Hospital Philadelphia, is here. According to NBC News “But then with mask-wearing and social distancing and all those things that limit the spread of a respiratory virus, we didn’t have that expected spike.”

Dr. Benjamin Greenberg is a neurologist at UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute. He told the outlet that cases are likely to increase as a result of in-person school resuming.

“We have a group of kids now who’ve never seen the virus, because they weren’t having school exposures. So we think the at-risk population is bigger than in 2020,”He spoke to the outlet.

The CDC states that there is no antiviral medication or vaccine available. Health professionals will only offer the most common treatments. 

The CDC recommended that people continue to use standard hygiene practices to reduce germ spread, such as washing hands with soapy water and covering their coughs and sneezes. They also recommend staying current on all recommended vaccines. The CDC also said to contact a health care provider immediately if you or your child have trouble breathing or sudden limb weakness.

While rates of AFM are increasing, the disease is still very rare, according to the CDC. 


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