sick boy sleeping on the hospital bed

What to Know About the Polio-Like Disease Affecting Kids

The polio-like illness affecting many kids across the U.S. has been all over the news since 2014, but it has made more noise recently as doctors foresee an uptick in cases this year. Although a lot about the acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) remains a mystery, say, who’s vulnerable and why it’s more common in the late summer and early fall, there are a few things experts are sure of. Here’s what you should know about this disease.

It attacks the nervous system.

More particularly, it affects the grey matter, a region in the spinal cord, which results in muscles getting weaker and arms and legs being paralyzed. The symptoms sometimes go away after a while, but for some cases, they persist. Doctors still do not know what exactly causes such changes in the nervous system, but some believe it is brought on by enterovirus, which can be contracted from another infected person or an infected object.

Some AFM patients, however, show no signs of the presence of the virus, so medical practitioners can conclusively say it is the virus causing it. Nonetheless, it is important to practice good hygiene at home, encourage your kids to wash hands regularly and disinfect household surfaces to prevent potential AFM triggers. Avoid kissing, hugging, or sharing utensils with your children also if you are sick.

It is not polio.

Although the problem is closely associated with the paralyzing disease because of their similar symptoms, know that polio is different from AFM. In fact, most of the patients diagnosed so far tested negative for the polio virus. Still, it is important to get your children vaccinated for polio. Remember, this disease affects breathing muscles, so it is really a life-threatening condition for kids.

So, if you have not given your children proper immunization yet, go to a kids’ clinic in Salem. Be up to date with vaccinations: one dose at two months old, another at four months, and then at six through 18, and then at four through six years old. Unfortunately, for AFM, since much is not known yet, there are no vaccines or preventive drugs yet available. But keep yourself in the loop for future immunizations, if ever.

It is diagnosed through a series of tests.

doctor conducting lab test

Precisely because it is difficult to identify it for sure since it has similar symptoms to other neurological diseases. For one, doctors use MRI to check the patient’s brain and spinal cord. They run lab tests on the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid around the brain and spinal cord) as well. Also, they observe how the impulses are transported along the nerve fibers.

Doctors recommend going through these tests as soon as you spot symptoms. If your child has suddenly experienced weak arms and legs, droopy eyelids, and slurred speech, take them to the hospital right away.

Be on the alert for changes in your children’s health. Read health bulletins regularly to know how you can better protect them. And if you see the warning signs, do not second-guess taking them to your doctor.

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