Mystery Polio-Like Disease Is Making Kids Sick: How to Keep Yours Safe

sick childTurn on the TV news, and chances are you'll hear a lot about Ebola. What parents aren't hearing about -- and should be paying attention to -- is a strange illness with polio-like symptoms that's hitting American children. Called "acute flaccid myelitis," the disease is cropping up in kids across the United States, and it has CDC doctors mystified.

So what is acute flaccid myelitis, or AFP? According to the CDC, it's a disease causing paralysis, mostly in kids, that's similar to that experienced by polio patients. Or what WOULD be experienced by polio patients if America hadn't been polio-free since 1979 (thanks to vaccines).

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The term acute is used because it comes on suddenly, and flaccid comes from what it does to the limbs -- making them weak.

Some -- but not all -- patients with the condition have shown symptoms after first doing battle with enterovirus, the other disease making its way through the pediatric population in America at the moment. Although AFP is not new, it's possible the spike in kids showing symptoms could be related to enterovirus ... but again, doctors aren't sure!

More From The Stir: Enterovirus vs. Cold vs. Allergies: How to Tell Which Your Kid Is Suffering From

So how many kids has this affected? Hard to tell. Ten kids were hospitalized in just about one month in Colorado -- from August 9 to late September. Other figures say about 57 kids have been sickened in total in America, but it's hard to tell if that's accurate. The CDC reports note that acute flaccid myelitis has not been a "reportable" disease in any American state -- meaning kids could have it, but there was no reason for doctors to notify their state health departments. That changed in late September. The CDC is now asking all health care workers to report AFP cases so they can get to the bottom of this scare.

As for parents? The CDC has this advice to keep kids safe:

1. Make sure your kids are up-to-date on all their vaccines, including polio, influenza, measles, and whooping cough.

2. Make sure your kids wash their hands frequently, but especially before touching food and after going to the bathroom.

3. If your child displays "problems walking or standing or develops sudden weakness in an arm or leg," go to your doctor immediately.

Have your children been sick this fall? What was it? 

 

Image © iStock.com/RapidEye

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