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Is Polio Making a Comeback?

According to the CDC, there have been 158 confirmed cases in 2018 (2 so far in Arizona) of a polio-like illness affecting mostly children. What is this mysterious illness? It’s called acute flaccid myelitis, which is a serious but rare condition that affects the nervous system especially in children causes paralysis.

What causes acute flaccid myelitis?

There is not a specific cause of acute flaccid myelitis. Specimens (such as spinal fluid) tested from affected patients have detected viruses such as coxsackie virus A16, West Nile virus, and enteroviruses such as EV-D68 and EV-A71. All cases tested by the CDC so far have tested negative for poliovirus. However, even despite extensive testing in many specimens, no pathogens have been found.

What are the symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis?

Many patients develop a mild respiratory illness or fever prior to developing acute flaccid myelitis. The presentation of neurologic symptoms can include weakness in the upper or lower legs, facial weakness or drooping, difficulty moving the eyes or drooping eyelids, or difficulty breathing or swallowing.

What is the treatment for acute flaccid myelitis?

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for acute flaccid myelitis. However, supportive measures such as occipital or physical therapy can help with arm or leg weakness.

How to prevent acute flaccid myelitis?

The CDC recommends continuing vaccinating yourself and your children, protecting yourself against mosquitos that can carry West Nile virus, washing your hands often with soap and water, avoiding close contact with those who are sick, and cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces or toys.