MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As some children head back to school, there’s another virus to watch out for.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning of an expected spike in acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM — a polio-like illness that effects kids.
It was July of 2018, and Orville Young of Minneapolis was 3. Two days later, the healthy toddler was ill. Elaine Young is Orville’s mother.
“He couldn’t use his arm at all. It wouldn’t lift at all, and so we rushed to the ER and spent a week there getting treatment while it got progressively worse,” Elaine said.
Orville was diagnosed with AFM, which effects kids by weakening them and causing paralysis. Orville’s foot and leg also became numb.
The family has been getting treatment at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, a leader in treating and rehabbing AFM patients. Dr. Angela Sinner works with AFM patients.
“The CDC has alerted us that this is a common year where we may might expect to see a spike in acute flaccid myelitis cases,” Sinner said.
She says it’s a rare diagnosis, with a few hundred kids a year being diagnosed. But parents should know the signs.
“A child that may have acute flaccid myelitis will have weakness in their limbs, they may be falling, they may have trouble walking on their own. They may be crawling where they should be walking more typically, so that weakness is a common symptom,” Sinner said.
Some patients are so weak they need ventilators to breathe. She says it’s caused by a virus, but like the Young family, it starts with a cold. And in some young children, it turns into AFM.
“We do not understand why one child will be effected with acute flaccid myelitis, while other siblings in the same home may not have that finding,” Sinner said.
She says one thing they do know, even amidst COVID-19, it’s important to get kids with symptoms to the doctor fast. AFM can cause long-term paralysis.
As for Orville, he’s had to have a nerve transplant, but is considered lucky, and he knows it. He tells WCCO he’s feeling “great!”
There is some hope that because so many people are washing hands and wearing masks, it may slow the spike in AFM cases this fall.