A mysterious illness is sweeping the nation, leaving children with muscle weakness and even paralysis in some cases. Now one patient is here in Oklahoma.
Doctors now believe a combination of genetics and exposure to certain viruses and toxins has contributed to this latest spike in cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis, but they want to remind parents that it is still very uncommon.
Every other year since 2014, the US has experienced an unexplained resurgence of this polio-like illness. This year more than 100 cases have been reported, including one Oklahoman patient under the age of 18.
As the CDC works to confirm them all, OU's Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases Dr. Robert Welliver says parents should be aware, but not panicked.
“The perspective to maintain is that’s 160 cases nationwide, and there’s four million children born every year, so it’s really one per million children,” says Welliver.
Right now, researchers are trying to find a definitive cause. While each case may have different contributing factors, all the patients experience sudden muscle weakness, and 80% of them are children.
“In some cases, there have been viruses that have been recovered from it,” Welliver says, “particularly they’re called enteroviruses, that are pretty common in the summer, and this disease peaks in September and October.”
Doctors say catching the illness early can help for a quick recovery, but some children are still fighting the paralysis they developed years ago.
Welliver says if the syndrome becomes widespread, researchers will be forced to speed up their efforts to find a solution.
“There may be multiple causes,” Welliver says, “but finding the multiple causes and then vaccines could be made against things that cause this if it becomes more predominant.”
While it is highly unlikely for your child to develop Acute Flaccid Myelitis, it is advised that you take them to the doctor as soon as they show any signs of the illness.