Health & Fitness

Second case of rare paralyzing disease confirmed in South Carolina

What we know and don’t know about AFM

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare, serious condition that affects the nervous system. Cases of AFM have been on the rise since 2014. Less than 1 million people in the U.S. get the condition each year, but not a lot is known about it.
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Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare, serious condition that affects the nervous system. Cases of AFM have been on the rise since 2014. Less than 1 million people in the U.S. get the condition each year, but not a lot is known about it.

South Carolina health officials have confirmed another case of a rare, polio-like illness that mostly impacts children.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control said this week that a second person in the Upstate was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, Liv Osby of The Greenville News reported.

The rare condition, also known as AFM, affects the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

In October, DHEC confirmed the first case of AFM for 2018. That patient was also located in the Upstate.

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Since 2014, health officials have seen an increase of the rare disease nationwide. The disease is often likened to polio but is not caused by the poliovirus, according to the Center for Disease Control.

The CDC says that 90 percent of patients experience “a mild respiratory illness or fever consistent with a viral infection before they developed AFM.” Those symptoms give way to sudden weakness in the arms and legs, difficulty moving eyes and trouble with swallowing or slurred speech. The condition typically sets in between August and October, according to the CDC.

“There is no specific treatment for AFM, but a doctor who specializes in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses (neurologist) may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis,” according to the CDC. ““The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure that can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak.”

Doctors aren’t sure of the specific cause of AFM but the disease has potential links to certain enterovirus, which typically cause flu like symptoms from which people recover.

Public health authorities do not know what causes AFM and are unsure how to treat it, the CDC notes, but most recover from the illness, McClatchy reported in October.

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The CDC has found that AFM cases increase every two years. The CDC reporters:

  • In 2017, CDC received information for 33 confirmed cases of AFM in 16 states.
  • In 2016, CDC received information for 149 confirmed cases of AFM in 39 states and DC.
  • In 2015, CDC received information for 22 confirmed cases of AFM in 17 states.
  • From August to December 2014, CDC received information for 120 people confirmed cases of AFM in 34 states.

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