LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - In 2018, over 200 people across the United States were diagnosed with Acute Flaccid Myelitis, a nervous system condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
90 percent of those cases affected children 18 years or younger.
“Acute Flaccid Myelitis, the name is, in a way, kind of self-explanatory," Dr. Timothy Haman, an infectious disease specialist and CHRISTUS Oschner Health Southwestern Louisiana Medical Director said. "It’s acute; as in it occurs pretty quickly over a matter of hours or days. Flaccid is just a term that means muscles don’t contract, so they are flaccid, and then myelitis is inflammation involving nerves.”
It affects the nervous system; specifically the area of the spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak, according to the CDC.
There were 201 cases of AFM confirmed last year in 40 states, with another 163 suspected cases currently being investigated.
The polio-like condition could be caused by a virus, according to health officials.
“90-plus percent of the time, before they have AFM, they have upper-respiratory, fever, things like that, so the theory is it is related to the body’s reaction to a virus," Dr. Haman said. "There is not really a specific virus that has been identified, but there is a theory that is is Coxsackievirus, but I don’t think that has been completely proven yet.”
Coxsackievirus causes hand, foot, and mouth disease among other things, according to the CDC.
Two AFM cases have been confirmed in Louisiana in the last year.
Haman says AFM is a condition that can cause paralysis. Haman discusses the symptoms to look out for:
“Kid’s that suddenly stop walking; or if it is in a younger child that hasn’t started walking yet, they stop moving their arms, stop moving their legs," Dr. Haman said. "Any change in muscle tone or muscle activity; so, a kid who ordinarily kicks their legs, rolling all over the place. If they stop doing that, that may be a reason to be concerned, especially if they have been sick recently.”
Other symptoms include weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes in the arms or legs, facial droop or weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, and slurred speech.
Dr. Haman says to call your pediatrician if you believe your child may have the condition or if you have any concerns