Similar to polio, the disease affects a person's nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, and can cause paralysis. In some cases, it can lead to paralysis or death but Dr. Robinette says this is a very rare complication of a common infection. AFM cases first peaked in the United States in August 2014, 120 people had been identified in 34 states by the end of that year. Unlike polio, there is no vaccine for AFM.
"The cause of any individual case of AFM can be hard to determine, and often, no cause is found", the Washington State Department of Health said in a release on Wednesday. They are working with the CDC and Ohio Department of Health to monitor the illness.
AFM is not a reportable disease, meaning there may be more cases that were just treated and the child recovered and AFM wasn't diagnosed.
AFM can be developed from a viral infection, although its exact cause is unknown.
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"At this point there isn't evidence that would point to a single source of illness among these cases", Dr. Scott Lindquist, state infectious disease epidemiologist at the Department of Health, said. It is actively investigating AFM cases, and trying to unearth more information about the rare condition. AFM causes patients' muscles to weaken and symptoms include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs, neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop, difficulty swallowing or slurred speech. A clinical diagnosis, which was given in the state's six new cases, involves an MRI and a scan or a tap of the spine, which detects inflammation associated with AFM.
"If a parent notices a child with a weak or paralyzed limb, they should go to urgent care or the hospital immediately", said Julie Graham, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health. The case reports are from individuals younger than 18 years of age and from northern IL. The agency is also studying AFM outbreaks to better understand the condition and uring healthcare providers to be vigilant about its symptoms.
Some affected by AFM may also be unable to pass urine, and have difficulty breathing, requiring urgent ventricular support.
The CDC says it got information on 362 cases of the illness in the US from August 2014 through August 2018. Practices such as regular hand-washing are recommended. The CDC3 does not advocate the use of steroids, IVig, or plasma exchange in AFM, but individuals with AFM or caregivers of children with AFM should discuss treatment recommendations with their physician. AFM or neurologic conditions like it have a variety of causes such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.