CDC warns of polio-like disease spikes from previous year

AFM concerns

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s seeing more cases of a serious condition with polio-like symptoms.

The disease is mostly found in children, and can cause paralysis.

According to the CDC, Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM), is a rare but serious condition that targets the nervous system.

"Acute Flaccid Myelisis is a disease where we think a virus attacks the motor component of the spinal cord. So patients get weakness in the effected areas, usually an arm or a leg, or sometimes more than that," Dr. Jessica Gautreaux, Child Neurologist with LSU Heath and Children's Hospital said.

Health experts say they haven't been able to pinpoint which viruses are causing it, but they do know 90% of the cases are found in those under 18, with the average age at four years old.

The effects can be devastating.

"The reason that people compare it to polio is that the clinical picture is very similar in that the patient gets mostly a motor problem, and many patients don't recover so they remain with weakness," Gautreaux said.

However, they haven't found polio virus to be linked to AFM.

Medical experts say the condition seems to spike every other year.

"They are a little bit everywhere. Some years have been high, some years go down, and then back up and down. So we still have a lot to learn about that disease," State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard said.

According to the State Department of Health, no cases have been confirmed yet in Louisiana.

Doctors say those who experience flu-like symptoms with a sudden weakness in limbs should seek medical attention right away.

"It's fairly specific, and you have to do an MRI, you have to ask for the symptoms, there is a certain number of conditions to make sure you have this AFM and not something else," Ratard said.

62 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. so far. While there's currently no vaccine for it, people should still take preventative measures.

"It's so important because we don't have a treatment at present that we know is effective for this, and also because the results can be dramatic. People can become very very weak and sometimes they don't recover," Gautreaux said.

The CDC recommends staying up to date on vaccines, thoroughly washing hands, and protecting against mosquito bites.

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