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Case of rare polio-like illness suspected in Ottawa Co

28 October 2018
Case of rare polio-like illness suspected in Ottawa Co

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported October 22 that there are 155 patients under investigation this year for acute flaccid myelitis, a condition that that can cause paralysis and mostly affects children. On Monday, federal health officials said they had as many as 155 reports of possible AFM cases.

Since then, the CDC has confirmed 386 cases of AFM, including 62 cases in 22 states this year.

The condition is especially common in children, the other three cases of this rare disease in MI were found in children according to health officials.

AFM affects a person's nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, causing weakness in one or more limbs.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit says there have been no reports of AFM in London or Middlesex County, which means the patients would likely have come from other public health jurisdictions. This condition is not new, but the increase in cases we saw starting in 2014 is new. Many are calling AFM a "polio-like" illness, because it causes weakness and paralysis in childrens' arms and legs. "Less than one in a million people in the United States get AFM each year", the CDC says.

"Until you actually identify the virus or whatever microbial agent it is with a laboratory confirmation test you can not be 100 percent certain", he said. Other cases may also be related to viral infection, but they don't have the same precise symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis, which include sudden onset and specific damage to the spinal cord.What's clear to the doctors who have treated numerous cases is that some virus is responsible, and that most cases are likely due to EV-D68."I think we are seeing the emergence of a new polio-like paralytic disease. With AFM you don't get that recovery".

"If we don't know what causes it, we don't know how to treat it", Dr. Vogel said.

The CDC has a hunch that AFM can be caused by other viruses like enterovirus or west nile virus. "When you are talking about infants and toddlers they are not fully immune competent", Rohde says.

Shah says the best thing parents can do is to "continue being good parents".

Since September, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto has also seen an increase in patients with symptoms typical of AFP, namely muscle weakness and a preceding viral illness, according to associate pediatrician-in-chief Dr. Jeremy Friedman.

"You should seek medical care right away if you or your child develops any of these symptoms".