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Local boy probable to have rare illness similar to polio

Nick Lippa

Oishei Children’s Hospital says it’s probable a 3-year old child named Kameron has acute flaccid myelitis. Known as AFM, it causes muscles and reflexes to become weak after affecting the body’s nervous system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, less than one in a million people get AFM each year—but cases have been on the rise since 2014.

AFM isn’t spread person to person. It’s a rare reaction to a common viral infection. Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist Mark Hicar said driving the car is more of a danger than catching AFM.

“We had a group in Colorado earlier in the year. There are five cases in Washington, a very populous state of, I don’t know ten million people. And only about five cases have been reported,” Hicar said. Minnesota has a cluster. Illinois. I think that’s the clusters I’ve seen, but those are clusters that just might be because of large populations”                         

Hicar said some of these viruses are more prone to spread during the change of season.

“The outbreak in 2014, of the tests we did that year, about a third of them with a certain virus that we think was causing that outbreak,” he said. “Roughly a third of the runny noses in that two-month period around the country were from this virus and we only had 150 cases.”

AFM stems from enterovirus EV-D68. Kameron’s diagnosis of AFM would be the first in New York State this year if confirmed.

The New York State Department of Health has confirmed 39 children have the virus (EV-D68) in New York State. Symptoms usually include runny nose, sneezing, cough, body aches, and muscle aches.

The DOH sent out this message.

Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes.

There is no specific treatment for EV-D68 infections other than management of symptoms, and no specific anti-viral medications are currently available for this purpose.  It is important to take steps to protect yourself and others from all respiratory infections, including: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  • Use the same precautions you would use to prevent the spread of influenza.

These prevention steps are especially important for individuals or persons with family members who are infants, or who have chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems.

Hicar encourages parents to get their children vaccinated to avoid potential illnesses this flu season. Kameron was up to date with his vaccinations before his current diagnosis.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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