An Epidemic Similar To Polio On The Rise: Acute Flaccid Myelitis Paralyzing Children In The U.S.

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It has been confirmed that an epidemic similar to Polio is on the rise. Acute Flaccid Myelitis is paralyzing and killing children in the U.S., Huffington Post reports.

Polio was a severe epidemic in the 1950s. In 1952, there were nearly 58,000 reported cases of Polio. Out of the reported cases, over 3,000 children died and over 21,000 children were left with paralysis.

Finally, a vaccination against Polio was made in 1955 by Dr. Jonas Salk. By 1962, Polio cases dropped to a mere 910.

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Acute Flaccid Myelitis is very similar to Polio. It affects the nervous system and can lead to paralysis. Recently, as many as 89 children have been affected by this disease across 33 states so far.

As of now, the only thing that doctors know about this disease is that it can cause paralysis, similar to Polio. Children affected with Acute Flaccid Myelitis lose muscle strength, have sudden leg weakness, and decreased reflexes. Other symptoms of this disease are droopy eyes, difficulty swallowing, and slurred speech.

Some experience mild paralysis, while others may have complete paralysis in all limbs. In serious cases, some may experience the inability to breathe on their own.

Acute Flaccid Myelitis appears to stem from common viruses. They may start to experience respiratory issues and a fever, then begin to have muscle weakness.

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A pediatric infection disease physician, Dr. Kevin Messacar, advises parents to seek immediate medical attention at the first sign of muscle weakness after experiencing symptoms of the common cold or fever.

“By that time, many of the viruses that can trigger this would no longer be detectable. The earlier that patients can present and get tested, the better chance we have to find a triggering infection.”

Although Acute Flaccid Myelitis is on the rise, it is still very rare, Messacar advises.

“This is a very rare condition, but it still is an important condition for the scientific community to learn more about, particularly because of the potential for long-term and disabling consequences. Even though there are very few cases in the country, as researchers and scientists, we need to move the field forward in order to better prevent and treat the condition.”

According to Chicago Tribune, researchers are developing a drug to fight against Polio and similar diseases. They are hoping that the vaccine could potentially help those affected with Acute Flaccid Myelitis. One drug, in particular, called Pocapavir, was used in an attempt to treat some patients who suffered from Acute Flaccid Myelitis in 2014. Although it seemed to be somewhat effective, a larger study would be necessary, neurologist Benjamin Greenberg from the University of Texas mentioned.

“There were a couple of kids who got Pocapavir in the Colorado outbreaks. It had relatively weak but measurable impact on viral replication. A larger study would definitely be warranted. We’ll take anything we can get.”

It has been determined that the Acute Flaccid Myelitis could be caused by enteroviruses, John Modlin, deputy director of the polio eradication program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, revealed.

“I have been studying enteroviruses for 40 years now. If I had a child with acute flaccid myelitis, I would be on the phone in a second to the companies making these drugs.”

Currently, there are no drugs available that are approved by the FDA to treat Acute Flaccid Myelitis. Even Pocapavir is not currently approved until the company completes a new drug application.

Collett, a molecular biologist, is hopeful that the drug being used to treat Polio could be used to treat Acute Flaccid Myelitis, especially if it is caused by enteroviruses.

“I think the drugs will be useful. We’re treating a polio case right now in Argentina. Pocapavir has been in a phase 1 study involving 114 patients, a phase 2 study, and was given on a compassionate-use basis to 23 infants, children and adults in the United States. No adverse events have been seen above and beyond the control-study levels. We’re pretty hopeful.”

The current treatment for Acute Flaccid Myelitis is the use of intravenous gamma globulin, which are antibodies given to people in an attempt to boost their ability to fight infections. Prozac has also been used, but so far, neither method is proving to be effective.

[Featured Image by didesign/AP Images]