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

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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!

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