Kids Safety 101

A Paralyzing Disease That Targets Kids Is Surging This Year

Even with all that’s going on with the coronavirus, other diseases are still around. And on Tuesday, the CDC announced that a disease that targets children in particular will surge this year from August to November.

It’s called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), and for some reason, it peaks every two years in the fall. The symptoms are scary, and researchers have not figured out a way to treat it.

It’s essential that you keep an eye out for symptoms in your kids, because catching this disease early is a must. If symptoms progress for a long time, paralysis and even death can occur.

What Is AFM?

AFM is a rare and life-threatening neurological disease that mainly affects children, though sometimes it will hit adults.

Experts often compare AFM to polio. Both diseases have the potential to paralyze otherwise healthy children.

According to the National Institute of Health, the disease can lead to paralysis because it affects the spinal cord, as well as the part of the nervous system that takes the brain’s commands to the body.

The symptoms of AFM

  • Sudden, acute weakness in the arms or legs
  • A decrease in muscle tone
  • Decreased absent reflexes
  • Pain
  • Facial weakness
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Difficulty swallowing, speaking or moving eyes
  • Respiratory failure

Treatment Options

There is no set treatment for AFM yet. However, being diligent about tracking your child’s feelings and symptoms will help. Experts also recommend parents keep up with their kids’ polio vaccines. If possible, try to limit your family’s exposure to mosquitoes, as well.

There are methods doctors have tried to treat the disease, but there is reportedly no evidence that they work. These include:

  • Immunoglobin therapy
  • Corticosteroids
  • Plasma exchanges
  • Antiviral therapy

According to the CDC, there is also a chance that other viruses like West Nile Virus can lead to the development of AFM. They write,

“Multiple viruses, including West Nile virus, adenovirus, and nonpolio enteroviruses, are known to cause AFM in a small percentage of infected persons. Pathogens are rarely recovered from the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of AFM patients, but enteroviruses are the most common pathogens detected in nonsterile site specimens, such as respiratory and stool specimens. Enterovirus D68 is the most common enterovirus type identified among AFM patients; poliovirus has not been detected in any cases. In addition, recent data, including animal model studies and studies of enterovirus-binding antibodies in CSF, indicate that nonpolio enteroviruses, and EV-D68 in particular, are likely a primary cause of AFM in the United States since 2014. However, other viruses that cause AFM might be contributing to the biennial peaks. A cluster of 11 AFM cases in Colorado associated with enterovirus A71 contributed to the number of cases reported in 2018.”

The point is, there is a lot we don’t know about AFM. The best we can do is pay even closer attention to our children’s health from August to November.

Katy Holloway