An increase in a mysterious paralyzing illness has been reported among children

Cases have decreased last year, but the CDC is currently seeing a spike in the number of cases for 2016.

Have you ever heard of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)? Well, if you haven't, then it's something that you might wish to educate yourself more about. Especially since the CDC has reported a drastic increase in the cases of AFM in the United States as of late.

What exactly is AFM, and should I be worried?

In a nutshell, AFM is a condition that affects the spinal cord which is brought about as a result of a viral infection such as bronchitis or enterovirus. The symptoms of AFM can include the following:

  • Weakness of the limbs.
  • Loss of reflexes
  • Weakness of the facial muscles
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Having a hard time swallowing or a slur in speech

Back in 2014, there was also an increase in the cases of AFM, which was brought about by a viral outbreak of enterovirus D68. The scary thing about it was that enterovirus D68 usually just causes runny nose, sneezing, and aches, but for those who were infected by the virus, there were 120 cases of AFM across 34 states in the US.

According to the CDC, the number of AFM cases in 2015 decreased to just 21 cases in 16 states. This year however, there have been 50 reported cases across 24 states.

It can affect your kids

Alarmingly, AFM can seriously infect children. According to Dr. Kevin Messacar, a researcher in the CDC, "What we saw ... is that the majority of children had a fever and a respiratory illness. Five days later, they would develop pain in the arms and legs, and weakness followed."

Messacar adds, "It's important to understand that there's a wide spectrum of severity of this disease. On one end, you see mild weakness in one extremity, he said. On the other, you've got children who have lost the ability to breathe on their own, and exhibit complete paralysis in their arms and legs."

Currently, there are still no effective methods of therapy when it comes to AFM. However, doctors agree that early detection is key when it comes to AFM.

No clear link with any outbreak

What makes the increase in AFM cases puzzling is that there has been no link to a virus such as enterovirus D68. AFM has also been linked to viruses like West Nile and other adenoviruses which can cause bronchitis and pneumonia, but there haven't been any outbreaks as of late. Thankfully, there's currently no evidence to support a link between AFM and Zika.

Currently, the CDC is still trying to understand why there has been an increase in the cases of AFM. The CDC also reminds everyone to practice prevention steps as a means of avoiding this disease.

Go to the next page to learn more about protecting your family!

Keeping your family protected

While AFM might be a debilitating disease, it still can be prevented. Here are some tips that should help keep you and your family protected from infections:

paralysis causing illness Photo from: www.pixnio.com/

  • Make sure to wash your hands frequently - Frequent hand washing can prevent a lot of diseases and viruses. Make sure to teach your family proper handwashing technique.
  • If possible, avoid being in contact with sick people - If possible, try to avoid or minimize your contact with sick people, especially those with viral infections as these can easily be transmitted through physical contact.
  • Clean any areas that a sick person might have been in contact with - If a family member is sick, make sure to disinfect any areas that they have touched so as to avoid the spread of disease at your home.
  • Keep you and your family updated on vaccinations - Vaccines are a very good way of making sure that you and your family are safe from viruses. Always keep them updated and on schedule.
  • If you live in a place with mosquitoes, make sure to use mosquito repellent and dispose of any standing water - For those who live in tropical areas or warmer climates where there are a lot of  mosquitoes, it's very important to clean your surrounding area and dispose of any water that might harbor mosquitoes. It's also important to use mosquito repellent or mosquito nets at night to avoid infection.

READ: Vicious viruses lurking inside a shopping cart puts baby in ICU!

Sources: CDC, refinery29.com, edition.cnn.com

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