Polio-like Illness Paralyzing Children


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is reporting a sudden spike in cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM).  At least half of the states in the U.S. have reported cases of this mysterious disease.  Vaccination may play a role in triggering this Polio-like illness.

A January 2015 article in The BMJ suggested that vaccines may play a role in the increased numbers of AFM.  It’s called Paralytic Polio and can be triggered after intramuscular injections of vaccines.   It’s also related to “provocation poliomyelitis” or “provocation paralysis.”

Participants attending the Child Neurology Society’s annual meeting in October suggest that Acute Flaccid Myelitis may have been misdiagnosed as Transverse Myelitis for several years.

What is Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

Acute Flaccid Myelitis is a relatively rare syndrome that affects children primarily between the ages of 1 and 18 years old.  Most patients suffer from the sudden onset of limb and facial weakness similar to polio.  In most cases, the onset is very rapid.  Tests have revealed lesions on the spinal cord and brain stem.

What Causes Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

While the exact cause is still unknown, there are several suspected sources.  Most physicians point to a viral infection known as Enterovirus 68.  However, other potentials are:

What are the symptoms of Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

At least 80% of the confirmed cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis through the CDC reported a respiratory illness prior to developing AFM and 75% also reported a fever. Diagnosing AFM requires a complete medical history review, MRI imaging, and the elimination of both Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Transverse Myelitis. Symptoms of AFM include:

  • Facial Drooping
  • Facial Weakness
  • Limb Weakness
  • Loss of Muscle Tone
  • Loss of Reflexes
  • Drooping Eyelids
  • Slurred Speech
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Difficulty Moving the Eyes
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