Rare illness identified in Columbiana County

Mysterious 'polio-like' illness AFM is likely more widespread than reported experts say

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health says it is investigating a fifth suspected case of acute flaccid myelitis, the rare, polio-like illness that causes muscle weakness and paralysis. It's characterized by sudden, asymmetric weakness in the arms or legs. It can lead to serious neurological problems, the CDC said in a statement last week.

Sixteen children have been diagnosed with the illness in MA since 2014, and last week the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 62 cases in 22 states this year.

On Monday, CBC's "White Coat, Black Art" reported that doctors in Toronto have also seen an increase in suspected similar cases.

"There are some abnormal changes in the spine that have been identified with other patients and you would need that evidence to actually have a confirmed case", Dr. Taylor said.

"These symptoms are typical of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) and increases of similar cases have been reported by many other North American pediatric centres".

HuffPost Canada has reached out to the Canadian Paediatric Society for comment.

From August 2014 through September 2018, the CDC has received information on a total of 386 confirmed cases of AFM across the United States.

It's unclear what's causing the outbreak, which can develop after a viral infection, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

"This is a mystery so far, and we haven't solved it yet, so we have to be thinking broadly", Messonnier said. The average age of those who have the condition is 4, although more than 90% are under 18 years old.

"We don't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or the reasons why they may be at higher risk".

To date, however, according to the CDC, no pathogen or germ has been consistently detected in a patient's spinal fluid that indicates the cause of AFM. Some patients experience long-term paralysis requiring long-term care while others may fully recover, according to Pardo-Villamizar.

But while causes have been established in a handful of cases, the majority do not have attributed causes.

"As a parent myself, I understand what it is like to be scared for your child", she said during a CDC telebriefing. Symptoms include facial weakness, difficulty moving eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

Venkateswaran said parents should seek medical help if their child is experiencing a sudden weakness in any part of the body, a sudden loss of bowl or bladder control, or neck pain.

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