Polio-like virus AFM affecting more kids: Maryland Health Department

USA TODAY

Published 9:42 AM EDT Oct 16, 2018

Polio-like virus AFM affecting more kids: Maryland Health Department

More possible cases of a rare, polio-like virus have been reported, according to health officials. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been investigating more than 360 cases of acute flaccid myelitis dating back to 2014. The disorder, which mainly affects children, can paralyze a child's arms and legs. 

Brittany Fowler with the Maryland Department of Health told USA TODAY that there have been five possible cases of AFM in the state, all in children under the age of 18. Recently, the Minnesota Department of Health also announced six cases had been reported in children under 10 years old in its state. 

The CDC reports the cause of most AFM cases is unknown, but some cases have been linked to poliovirus (polio) and West Nile virus. Symptoms of AFM are extremely similar to poliovirus, West Nile virus and adenoviruses, which makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose. 

Symptoms include drooping face and eyelids, difficulty moving eyes and swallowing, and slurred speech. In severe cases, children might have trouble breathing and need a ventilator because of muscle weakness. 

More: What is acute flaccid myelitis, the mysterious polio-like disorder affecting kids?

More: Rare, polio-like paralyzing disorder affecting children on the rise, CDC says

There is no specific treatment for AFM, and the long-term outcomes for AFM patients is unknown. 

While cases have been on the rise since 2014, AFM still affects a small population — less than one in a million people in the United States annually. 

The CDC recommends people follow normal disease prevention steps to avoid AFM, including staying current on vaccines, washing hands and avoiding mosquito bites. 

Follow Ashley May on Twitter: @AshleyMayTweets

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