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Doc Talk | Uptick in acute flaccid myelitis cases

The CDC is confirming more cases of the polio-like disease, acute flaccid myelitis. The rare, but serious illness mostly affects young children.

"We blame it on various viruses," said Dr. Mohammad Ali an infectious disease specialist at Geisinger Holy Spirit.

A whole host of viruses could lead to AFM and Dr. Ali says it raises some questions.

"But we really don't know why it's happening to the community and why we are having these outbreaks," he explained.

Since 2014, the CDC has reported an increase in cases, mostly in young children. The virus is still rare, but intense and attacks your nervous system. This could mean limb and muscle weakness .

"Sometimes the presentation can also be difficulty swallowing because the muscles of the face are weak, difficulty breathing," said Dr. Ali.

According to medical records, most patients had experienced a mild respiratory illness or fever before developing AFM.

"Then you have these spots in the MRI in the grey matter of your spinal cord, and then sometimes at different levels," explained Dr. Ali.

What happens in the spinal cord then trickles to other parts of the body. As for treatment, Dr. Ali says there are two ways to approach this: "supportive care in the hospital and then early physical therapy."

This would then be followed by prolonged intensive physical therapy. In some cases, steroids are added to the mix. But, there is still no specific treatment and each intervention is on a case-by-case basis.

"No clear evidence that experts will say that yeah in every patient you should do this," said Dr. Ali.

Dr. Ali notes more research needs to be done.

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