New numbers from the Centers for Disease Control show a record total of confirmed cases of a polio-like illness, mostly affecting children.
It’s called acute flaccid myelitis and 186 children had confirmed cases of it in the U.S. in 2018.
According to Fox Baltimore, Local doctors are also on the forefront of research. Read below.
“I do feel like we’re learning a lot, but there’s still so much we don’t know,” said Dr. Michelle Melicosta with Kennedy Krieger Institute.
She and her fellow doctors at Kennedy Krieger are part of a national work group researching AFM.
“This is a disease that’s still relatively rare,” Dr. Melicosta said.
Children come from all over the country for care and rehabilitation at Kennedy Krieger Institute.
“We have had over 40 kids since 2014.” She says their average patient last year was 4 years old.
The disease presents like polio. It starts as a fever or respiratory illness, before a patient’s limbs get weak.
It can quickly progress to paralysis.
Doctors don’t know what causes it and there’s no medication to stop it.
“It is scary, but the biggest thing when it comes to this type of diagnosis is to remember it is very rare,” said Dr. Olufunke Pickering with the Baltimore City Health Department.
She says none of Maryland’s three confirmed cases have been in Baltimore City.
They’re urging caution. With so little known about the disease, they do know some viruses associated with it.
“So what we can do to prevent exposure to those viruses is very helpful,” she said. “Good handwashing, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, disinfecting surfaces and things like that. Obviously, vaccinating your children. That’s important.”
Looking at the numbers, there seems to be spike in cases every other year.
While 186 were confirmed in 2018, in 2017 there were 35 cases confirmed. In 2016, there were 149 confirmed cases. And, in 2015, 22 confirmed cases.
Given this trend, which Dr. Melicosta says they also saw in the 1950s with polio, doctors expect cases to decrease this year in 2019.
When it comes to fighting the disease, Dr. Melicosta says continued research is crucial. Doctors across the U.S. and Canada are part of the national work group studying AFM.
“Our focus right now is really with all the children we’ve seen this year in 2018, getting as many of them as possible enrolled into some of these research studies to try to learn everything we can.”
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