Idaho Child May Have Rare Neurologic Illness

A southwest Idaho child under the age of 5 may have Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM), the first reported case in the state this year. AFM is a very rare, but serious condition that can cause a sudden onset of weakness or paralysis in a person’s arms or legs, or the loss of reflexes. AFM most often occurs in children.

AFM is not a germ that can pass from person to person. AFM is a condition that suddenly develops, sometimes in people who initially had a viral infection such as West Nile, polio, a cold or after a fever. Nationally, the incidence of AFM is less than one case per million people.

Since some cases of AFM occur after infections from preventable diseases, there are interventions you can take to protect yourself and your family.  First, make sure everyone is up-to-date on their vaccinations, so you do not get infected with a preventable disease that may make you susceptible to AFM.  Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating. During seasons when mosquitoes are active, take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Symptoms for AFM are a sudden onset of limb weakness or paralysis, and loss of muscle tone. AFM symptoms can also include facial droop, difficulty moving your eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech. If a person has sudden onset of any of these symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Nationally, as of September, there were 89 cases of AFM reported from 33 states in 2016.  This compares to 21 cases in 2015, and 120 two years ago.  Due to a recent national increase in cases, which include illnesses from Washington, Idaho’s health districts are informing doctors and healthcare providers throughout the state to notify public health if they suspect AFM. With this initial case in southwest Idaho, blood samples are being sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing to determine if a cause can be found.

For more information about this rare, but serious disease, please visit the CDC’s website.

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