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Specialist: Polio-like AFM Is Scary, But Rare

There are ways to prevent acute flaccid myelitis

October 18, 2018 - 3:02 pm

Related: What is AFM?

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) — An expert at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh says while there's no cure for the polio-like disease known as AFM, there are things parents can do to prevent its spread.

Three patients are being treated for acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) at UPMC Children’s. Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease Dr. John Williams says the disease has been linked to a family of viruses.

“Most of these are common viruses that lots of children get, and we don’t know why only a very, very few develop the nerve problems from the virus.”

The first symptoms are weakness in an arm or leg.

Most cases are in kids under 18, usually age 5 - 7. The CDC confirms 62 cases in 22 states. Some recover fully, some partially, a few will not.

Because viruses can cause AFM, Williams says the best prevention is the same way you would avoid a cold.

While AFM has sparked fears among parents, he says far more children will die from the flu.

“Yes, this is scary. Yes it can be a very serious disease. But it’s extremely rare.”

He also urges parents to focus on threats far more common than AFM, by protecting children from the flu and ensuring their car seats are secured properly — two things Williams says will be fatal to children in the U.S. than AFM.

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