Rare Illness with Polio-Like Symptoms May Have Spread to KC


KANSAS CITY, MO — A rare illnesses with symptoms like polio may have spread to Kansas City.

Children’s Mercy hospital reports it is treating two possible cases of acute flaccid myelitis or AFM.

Cases have already been confirmed in five other states: Illinois, Washington, Colorado, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

A doctor at Children’s Mercy said those cases were reported to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and that they are analyzing them now.

However, because AFM symptoms are similar to polio, it’s scary when people hear about it.

“It’s an inflammation of the spinal nerves,” said Mary Anne Jackson, a Professor of Pediatrics at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

She said they’ve reported two suspected cases of AFM to the CDC over the last couple of months.

“This year we’ve seen some cases across the United States coincident with an uptick of Enterovirus D68,” she said. “Again, not the extent that we saw it back then, but enough so that we said we’re going to have to be looking and on attention.”

She said that, about four years ago, there was an uptick in cases of enterovirus D68. AFM has been associated with it, another respiratory virus called enterovirus 71, and West Nile virus.

Those viruses could show a range of symptoms; from none to severe.

AFM is very rare.

It more than likely follows a viral infection and Jackson said you have to be genetically predisposed to getting that type of inflammation.

The chances of a child contracting it is less than one in a million.

“This would be no surprise to parents to say if your child is ill-feeling, lethargic, or they suddenly present with inability to use a limb, you need to see your doctor,” Jackson said.

There is no vaccine for AFM.

Jackson said there is nothing you can really do to prevent viruses from spreading, but that washing your hands, covering your mouth when coughing, and staying home when you’re sick helps.

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