Rare disease reminiscent of polio diagnosed among children in Kansas City

Kara Marxer
October 12, 2018 - 6:27 am

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Two suspected cases of the rare disease acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which is similar to polio, have been diagnosed in Kansas City.

The Centers for Disease Control sayd there have been 38 recently-confirmed cases of AFM across 16 states. The disease strikes quickly, and often without warning.

"Some kids have started with flaccid paralysis -- they're not being able to use one or more of their limbs," said Dr. Jennifer Schuster, a physician at Children's Mercy's Infectious Disease Division. "Some kids have presented with difficulty speaking or difficulty swallowing and some kids have presented with changes in vision."

Doctors have been unable to develop effective treatments for AFM. Most cases of AFM have been in children, but it can develop in adults. Many times symptoms of AFM develop after a viral infection, such as poliovirus, West Nile virus, and adenovirus. In some cases no clear possible cause is found, according to the CDC website.  

"People have tried a number of different things that they've used for other neurologic diseases," Schuster said. "Unfortunately, there's been no consistent either drug or phonomenon or entity that has been clearly associated to improved outcome."

The good news is AFM is rare. It strikes about one in a million children in the United States. The CDC has not been able to pinpoint where the disease is coming from. To avoid infection, doctors recommend washing hands, getting a shot and taking other precautions to avoid getting sick.  

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