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Akron Children's doctor says polio-like disease is 'rare complication of common infection'

As of right now, 38 cases of AFM have been confirmed in 16 states

(WKBN) - On Tuesday, UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh confirmed three children were being treated at their facility suspected of having a polio-like disease.

The illness mainly affects children and is called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

As of right now, 38 cases of AFM have been confirmed in 16 states.

According to Eric Robinette, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Akron Children's Hospital, there's actually a lot of causes for AFM, but the cases we're seeing now are actually caused by an enterovirus infection.

He says this particular strain of enterovirus is everywhere throughout the mid-west.

The illness affects the body's nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, and can paralyze children. It's a rare complication.

"The rate of acute flaccid myelitis, while it's increased from what we normally see, which is about one in a million children getting that infection, it's still exceedingly rare," Robinette said.

AFM usually comes several weeks after an enterovirus infection and is seen more in children. A sudden onset of weakness in the limbs is the most common symptom.

"If you started experiencing weakness in one of your arms or legs, trouble picking things up, walking with a limp," Robinette said.

Facial drooping and trouble swallowing or speaking are also symptoms.

Currently, there are no vaccines for enterovirus or AFM.

"There's not any treatment for the enterovirus infection, it's usually just supportive care. Most of the time the acute flaccid myelitis gets better on its own," Robinette said.

Enterovirus is actually very common, and the season is usually from August to October. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to always wash your hands.

"Most of the time, the spread of enterovirus is through respiratory droplets, meaning coughing or sneezing," Robinette said.

Robinette also said that AFM is usually not life-threatening.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's still unclear how long symptoms, like limb weakness, can last.

"Sometimes you need to be in the hospital, but most of the children will recover and obviously we and other pediatric hospitals are equipped to take care of the patients if they do have acute flaccid myelitis. Like I said, this is a very rare complication of a common infection," Robinette said.

We will probably see a few more cases pop up over the next 4-6 weeks.

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