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A mysterious polio-like illness that struck the US in 2014 is on the rise yet again. The disease is called Acute Flacid Myelitis (AFM) and affects the nervous system of the children, especially their spinal cord.
The exact cause of AFM is unknown but doctors say it can be caused by many factors, including infections by enteroviruses, the West Nile virus and its family of viruses, and adenoviruses. This disease leaves most of the patient's body paralyzed in just a matter of few days and forces them to be put on ventilator.
AFM affected 120 children in 2014 while 21 cases were reported last year in the US. This year has already witnessed more than double the number of cases as 50 cases have been reported from 24 states in the US. The worst part is that there is no medicine or treatment yet for this disease. Continue reading to see how it affects children and what are the symptoms to look out for.
5-year-old Braden of Houston, Texas, was diagnosed with AFM in July this year. He cannot move around without a ventilator and is recovering in the hospital since. The boy has started to sit with support now, thanks to the physical therapy sessions he is on.
This is Braden's picture before he was diagnosed with AFM. His mother shared this picture on Facebook stating, "He was a regular kid just a few months ago." It is heartbreaking to see such a cute little boy left bed-ridden...
A little boy of 3, Carter Roberts of Chesterfield, Virginia went from a playful kid to a bed ridden, inactive boy within 24 hours. Here is a picture of him with his sisters before AFM took on him.
What surfaced as a minor fever took the form of a mysterious disease that weakened Carter's limbs and left him paralyzed except for a toe and the left side of his face.
McKenzie Anderson, 6, is another one of those unfortunate children who became a victim of AFM in 2014. Except for her left hand, toes and feet, she could not move any other body part. You can see McKinzie enjoying her childhood on the left side of this picture and right side is her picture after AFM hit her.
Dr Teri Schreiner of Children's Hospital of Colorado says that the recent rise in AFM cases is similar to that of the year 2014 where more than 100 children had been paralyzed due to this virus induced disease.
As per the CDC report, an upsurge of AFM has been noticed this year (as compared to last year) with 32 fresh cases reported across the US through July. The numbers had started rising since April and a total of 50 children have been affected this year till now.
Some common symptoms of AFM to look out for are sudden weakness in the limbs, drooping eyelids and difficulty in eye movement, slurred speech, facial weakness or droop, difficulty in swallowing and urinating, and pain in the limbs. Besides these, respiratory failure is the most severe symptom that makes a ventilator support necessary.
There is no medicine or treatment yet for AFM. After diagnosis, neurologists work with the patients on case by case basis. In most cases, physical therapy helps patients recover eventually.
Keep your children vaccinated and be informed of all recommended vaccinations. Maintain hygiene around yourself. Wash your hands regularly, especially after coming in contact with a sick person. Stay indoors or use a mosquito repellent at dusk and dawn to stay away from the West Nile virus, which is one of the major causes of AFM.