How doctors say you can protect your children against paralyzing illness

Posted at 5:12 PM, Dec 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-19 18:24:38-05

WEST MICH.--It’s a polio-like illness that’s being seen throughout the country, and now confirmed here in West Michigan.

It’s called Acute Flaccid Myelitis, or AFM, and a doctor we spoke to says he expects the number of cases to continue to rise.

AFM is rare but cases of the illness are popping up all over the country, including that case in Ottawa County, and he believes that trend will continue.

"When it happens nobody knows how bad it's going to be," says Dr. Daniel Fain, Spectrum Health pediatric neurologist.

A polio-like illness, leaving children nearly paralyzed only days after displaying cold or flu like symptoms.

"The thing to act on quickly is if that changes. If it changes suddenly into some weakness or some symptoms that are just very much unlike a cold," says Fain.

Within a day, doctors say AFM can impact a child’s nervous system and spinal cord, causing weakening in the limbs, difficulty swallowing, and breathing.

And though rare and only seen in children, at this time there is no specific group that is being affected by the illness.

"It can happen across cultural, racial strata it doesn't seem to be in any one particular group," Fain says.

While the AFM itself is not contagious, the viral infection that comes before it, can be.

"It doesn't seem to be that if somebody in a classroom has it that there's definitely a high risk that the other children are going to get it," says Fain.

Research is being done on what is causing the condition.

But, still, doctors say avoiding that initial virus is the best way to protect your kids.

"There's a lot of virus that could be potential culprits and so anything that can be done to prevent that type of illness would be the answer. It's still a rare condition, it's very unlikely that your child will develop any symptoms of weakness. But for the most part it still is preventive care that we would do to try to care of ourselves during the winter cold and flu season that needs to be remembered," says Fain.

There is no proven treatment at this time.

The CDC has been tracking and investigating the disease since it popped up on their radar in 2012 and spikes seem to be happening every two years during the fall and winter season..

So, doctors and health officials do predict that there will be a large number of cases in 2020 and want families to be prepared.

For more information on what you can do stop by this link