Two cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) were treated at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria this year, along with a third suspected case.
More than 100 cases of AFM have been confirmed or suspected within 22 states this year so far, including Illinois, according to the Centers for Disease Control. AFM is a rare neurological condition, with sudden onset that can affect a person’s nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, and can cause muscle weakness and even paralysis.
“We have seen a surge of Acute Flaccid Myelitis in 2016 as well as in 2014,” Dr. Sreenivas Avula of OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois and the University of Illinois College of Medicine – Peoria said. “The incidence of this Acute Flaccid Myelitis is not very high, it’s like one in a million pediatric patients but we do see it around the time of August to October.”
Health officials advise people to seek medical attention immediately if they develop symptoms, which includes weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial droop, difficulty moving eyes, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech.
Avula said any age child can be affected, but there has been a greater incidence in children under the age of 10. While the cause of most AFM cases is unknown, there are suspected links to poliovirus or the West Nile virus.
There is no specific treatment for AFM and long-term implications are currently unknown.