Hundreds of US children affected by a rare kind of paralyzing illness

There has been a growing concern for a disease that is causing paralysis among children. Medical experts are baffled with the rise in cases that have been observed over the course of this year. Although the condition appears more or less like polio but is not entirely it.  For the time being it is categorized as Acute Flaccid Myelitis or AFM for short.

Scientists are undertaking a rigorous amount of research to detect the exact causes and treatment methods for the condition.  So far, about 400 cases of AFM have been reported. Out of which 228 had occurred in 2018 and a hundred more added to the list in 2019 alone.

Children at a higher risk of AFM

Researchers who have examined the illness earlier, state that AFM tends to affect children more than any other group. In fact, from past data available in other countries, 90% of the reported cases were of children. When the findings were observed further, it was noted that those lying under the age bracket of 4 to 15 year old were at greater risk.

AFM starts off with the patient experiencing symptoms of a viral infection. Typically the child will first tend to develop a fever or will have other respiratory issues. This is subsequently followed by a more critical stage of flaccid paralysis affecting the limb region.

While these are the main symptoms that children will suffer, there have been complaints of other minor signs. A greater chunk of the affected population will have a problem speaking due to slurred speech. In some instances, the patient will also face difficulty in swallowing food.

The AFM problem gets to be considerably serious at some points where it can prove to be fatal. That happens when muscles responsible for breathing come in contact with the condition. If they are weakened as a result, there is a potential risk of respiratory failure. The only hope which then remains is breathing through a ventilator.

On a slightly fortunate note, only one death has been reported to date.

Scientists are undertaking an extensive amount of research to detect the virus causing the development of the symptoms. Although their efforts have not proved to be entirely fruitful, some initial propositions have been put forward. It is believed that AFM belongs to the enteroviruses group of which polio is also a part of.

How is treatment being carried out?

Due to the limited amount of knowledge available, no exact treatment procedure has yet been identified. Doctors are examining a variety of methods to lessen the intensity of the symptoms.

Procedures range from prescribing children steroids to various secondary drugs that can boost immunity. Some methods make the condition better for the patient while others show no signs of improvement.

Although the AFM cases in children remain in hundreds, the illness should nevertheless be taken lightly. The possibility of paralysis, as one symptom of the condition, has created a great cause of concern for medical doctors.

For now, we should hope that future research will help develop a better understanding of the disease.

Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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