Acute Flaccid Myelitis: A Rare, Serious Polio-Like Condition In Children
Six new cases of a polio-like condition among children have been identified in Minnesota. The local health department has been monitoring the cases since mid-September this year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the acute flaccid myelitis is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system, particularly the gray matter of the spinal cord. The detrimental effects of AFM negatively impact the performance of the muscles and the person’s natural reflexes. About less than 1 million people are affected by AFM in the US every year. New Cases of Polio-Like Condition Detected in MinnesotaThe Minnesota Department of Health confirmed the new cases of acute flaccid myelitis in the state. The MDH identified the rare condition among six children over the last few weeks. The disease investigators from the health department are currently working with healthcare providers to obtain more details about the affected children. They are also coordinating with the CDC to share any relevant information. The numerous cases of AFM in the US started in 2014 and there is no exact cause why the condition only affects children. But disease investigators believe that the development of AFM may be connected to a respiratory illness among kids. That respiratory illness can be caused by the enterovirus D 68 or EVD68.
With a potential association between AFM and EVD68, the health department recommends proper handwashing and tips to promote good health:
- Train your children to cover their nose or mouth when sneezing or coughing.
- If they are sick, do not let them outside. They need to stay at home as much as possible.
- Do not forget to update the list of vaccinations your child needs.
- Make sure that you and your kids are wearing protective clothing to prevent mosquito bites when going outside.
- Educate your children on how to wash their hands properly.
“If parents see potential symptoms of AFM in their child, (for example, if he or she is not using an arm) they should contact their healthcare provider as soon as possible, ” MDH said in a statement.
Non-Polio Enterovirus D68EVD68 is one of at least 100 known non-polio enteroviruses. Enteroviruses are recognized as infectious agents that normally travel to the intestines. They can cause several kinds of illnesses, such as mild respiratory issues and flu-like symptoms, but clinicians consider most of them as minor infections.
As stated in the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, at least 90 percent of people around the world are infected by enteroviruses. However, most of these infections trigger no symptoms or non-specific clinical signs like a fever. People with a healthy immune system can easily fight off the infections and recover without suffering from complications.
Cases of enterovirus infections with serious complications are commonly identified in younger children, specifically those younger than 10 years old, including newborns and infants, individuals with a weakened immune system, pregnant women, and those who have a chronic condition. Serious complications due to enteroviruses can occur in several organs of the body, such as the brain, heart, bones, liver, and spleen. If a person develops a serious case of infection, they should be admitted to the hospital to receive supportive treatment. Clinicians can help reduce the symptoms, keep the patient hydrated, and administer antibiotics in case a secondary infection from bacteria happens. An individual who is already battling a viral infection is prone to develop sepsis, a life-threatening complication triggered by the immune system.
Acute Flaccid MyelitisBased on the reviews of CDC, there are several potential causes of AFM, including viral infections, exposure to environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. Aside from EVD68, AFM can also be induced by the poliovirus, the West Nile virus, and adenoviruses. Adenoviruses are pathogens that infect the tissue linings of the respiratory tract, urinary tract, and nervous system. Once the viruses reach the central nervous system, the child may suffer from debilitating symptoms like arm or leg weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial weakness, difficulty in moving the eyes, and problems with swallowing.
Diagnosis of AFM can be done using a physical examination of the body part where weaknesses have been observed. To reveal more details, clinicians can use an MRI to check the patient’s brain and spinal cord. Additional tests for the assessments of cerebrospinal fluid of the CNS and nerve conduction can also be ordered by clinicians to provide an accurate diagnosis.
Even with advancement in medicine, there still no precise treatment for AFM. But specialists can provide the necessary interventions to treat the condition. Physical therapy and speech therapy are a couple of interventions applicable to patients with AFM, but the efficacy of every known therapy varies from one patient to another.
While there is no specific treatment, there are potential preventive measures against AFM. One of them is by getting having your kids vaccinated against the poliovirus. Another is by ensuring that they are well-protected against mosquito bites because mosquitoes spread the West Nile virus.
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