States and CDC probe reports of rare poliolike symptoms in kids

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The polio-like illness is not new but there has been an increase in cases this year with at least eight reported in Texas.

Three children at UPMC Children's Hospital are suspected of having AFM, while 38 others in 16 states have been diagnosed recently.

During 2015, CDC did not receive information about large EV-D68 outbreaks in the United States, and laboratories reported only limited EV-D68 detections to CDC's National Enterovirus Surveillance System (NESS). AFM is basically a viral infection and its exact cause of happening is still not known.

Between August 2014 and August 2018, the CDC received information on a total of 362 confirmed cases of AFM nationwide. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, symptoms include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs, sometimes following a respiratory illness, neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop, and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

Numbness or a tingling sensation is rare in people with the condition, though some people experience pain in the arms or legs. But a few still have partial paralysis and depending on which muscles are affected, children may need ventilators to help them breathe and may have to use wheelchairs. But in very rare cases, they can damage the nerves.

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Health officials are warning parents to be on the lookout for symptoms. AFM can cause a range of types and severity of symptoms, but the commonality among them is a loss of strength or movement in one or more arms or legs. A doctor can examine a patient's nervous system and the places on the body where he or she has weakness, poor muscle tone, and decreased reflexes. Acute flaccid myelitis is tricky to diagnose and may require tests of spinal fluid, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

If you or your child develops any of these symptoms, you should seek medical care right away.

The CDC also stresses that while rates of AFM are increasing, it's still an incredibly rare disease. AFM or neurologic conditions like it have a variety of causes, including viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

"There is no specific treatment for AFM, but a doctor who specializes in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses (neurologist) may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis", the CDC said.

The CDC does not yet know the long-term effects of AFM Some patients have recovered quickly, while others continue to have paralysis, it says. It can also be caused by poliovirus and non-polio enteroviruses, mosquito-borne viruses (such as West Nile virus or Zika virus) and possibly by non-infectious conditions.

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