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1 confirmed, 2 possible cases of AFM, polio-like illness in Ohio

By Julie Washington • Oct 17, 2018 at 10:00 PM

CLEVELAND (TNS) — Ohio has one confirmed case of a rare polio-like condition called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, and two unconfirmed cases, health officials said Wednesday.

Two children thought to have AFM were recently treated and released at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, officials said.

Rainbow is waiting for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate and possibly confirm the cases, said Dr. Amy Edwards, pediatric infection specialist at UH Rainbow.

The hospital declined to give further details on the cases.

The Ohio Department of Health did not release further details, such as location, on the confirmed case. AFM is a mysterious illness that mostly affects children and can cause paralysis.

So far this year, the CDC has tracked 127 confirmed or suspected cases of AFM in 22 states, and confirmed 62 cases. The number of confirmed cases represents a significant increase over 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said during a media briefing Tuesday.

The CDC sought to alert parents about AFM so they can seek medical care if their child shows symptoms of the disease, and health providers can relay reports to public health authorities.

Of the cases announced Tuesday, 62 have been confirmed in 22 states. More than 90 percent of the confirmed cases have been in children 18 and younger.

The CDC is not identifying states with confirmed or suspected cases. Media reports have listed Colorado, Minnesota, Maryland and Michigan as having possible cases of AFM.

Edwards stressed that parents should be aware of, but not overly worried, about AFM.

"It's still incredibly rare," she said. "Parents don't need to run around panicking." More children will be hospitalized with influenza than will be hospitalized with AFM, Edwards said.

AFM is a neurological condition that affects the nervous system and spinal cord, causing sudden limb weakness or paralysis. Symptoms include sudden muscle weakness or paralysis in the arms or leg, a weak or stiff neck, drooping eyelids or face, or difficulty swallowing or slurred speech, according to the Mayo Clinic. There is no specific treatment for the disorder.

Researchers think AFM is caused by a virus, but they aren't sure which virus is the culprit, Edwards said. That's why a cure has not been found. Most patients recover on their own, but some need help breathing or therapy to strengthen affected muscles.

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