More cases of a polio-like disease are affecting children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has been investigating at least 386 possible cases of acute flaccid myelitis dating back to 2014, and recently confirmed 62 cases in 22 states this year.
Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said this "dramatic" and serious disease is causing a lot of concern nationwide. Of the confirmed cases, 90 percent are children. The average age is 4 years old.
"We know this can be frightening for parents," Messonnier said in a news briefing.
Here's what parents should know:
What is AFM?
Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare condition that affects the area of spinal cord called gray matter and can cause paralysis. The CDC said the cause of most AFM cases is unknown, but a few cases have been linked to other viruses. There is no specific treatment for it and longterm implications are unknown.
What symptoms should parents look for?
"I encourage parents to seek medical care right away if you or your child develop sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms or legs," Messonnier said. Symptoms include drooping face and eyelids, difficulty with eye movement and swallowing, and slurred speech. In severe cases, children might have trouble breathing and need a ventilator because of muscle weakness.
Has anyone died from AFM?
Yes, there is one report of a child dying from AFM in 2017.
What are the chances my child will get AFM?
Though cases have been on the rise since 2014, AFM still affects a small population – less than one in a million people in the U.S. annually.
How can people prevent AFM?
The CDC recommends people follow normal disease prevention steps, including staying current on vaccines, washing hands and wearing insect repellent.
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