Maryland Health Officials Confirm 5 Possible Cases Of Polio-Like Illness

Health officials in Oklahoma say an Oklahoma child has been diagnosed with a polio-like illness that is sweeping the country.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have taken the significant step of issuing a public warning about an outbreak of a mysterious new disease that causes symptoms that are eerily similar to polio, reports the Washington Post.

The CDC says to be on the lookout for the onset of arm or leg weakness, and loss of muscle tone and reflexes. The cases stretch across 22 states, and most of the patients are children under the age of 18-years-old.

Doctors tell us the illness mostly affects children and can cause paralysis. They say they are investigating several potential causes, including environmental toxins. Less than one in a million people get it each year nationwide, the CDC estimates.

Boston Children's Hospital has evaluated all of the confirmed and suspected AFM cases that occurred in MA this year.

There is no specific treatment for AFM, but treatments that have been tried include immunoglobulin replacement therapy, corticosteroids, plasma exchange and antiviral therapy, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"Any weakness, including trouble swallowing, weakness of an extremity, especially in a child who has recently gone through signs of an infection, those would be the main red flags", said Sarah Hopkins.

The disease made headlines recently when news broke of cases in Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Iowa and other states.

"Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause", Messonnier said, dispelling reports that AFM was possibly linked to polio.

Parents have reported that the limbs of affected children appear lifeless.

While AFM is not unique to the US, Messonnier said, "no one else has seen seasonal clustering every other year". Messonnier said West Nile virus, which had been listed as a possible cause on CDC's website, is not causing the illnesses.

The condition remains very rare.

The illness affects the patient's spinal cord.

Some patients diagnosed with this condition have recovered quickly, but some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care, she said. Officials will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases.

The CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide variety of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM.

But Messonnier said that, in general, parents can help protect their children from diseases by washing their hands, making sure their children are up to date with vaccinations and applying insect repellent to protect against mosquito bites, which can spread viruses.

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