Michigan health department investigating possible case of polio-like illness

CDC confirmed 38 cases in 16 states

Six children in Minnesota were diagnosed with a rare "polio-like" disease since mid-September, according to state health officials.

Acute flaccid myelitis, known as AFM, affects the body's nervous system -- specifically, the spinal cord -- and can cause paralysis. Unlike polio, there is no vaccine for AFM.

At the end of September the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed 38 cases in 16 states, but they would not say where those cases are.

The Michigan Department of Public Health is investigating a suspected case in an adult male.

AFM can develop from a viral infection, although its exact cause is unknown. Symptoms include limb weakness, facial drooping and trouble swallowing or talking. Doctors stress the importance of recognizing the early signs of AFM and seeking care as soon as possible.

Experts don't want parents to panic, they want them to prepare.

According to an unofficial survey of state health officials by NBC News there are 87 possible cases in the United States spread out across 26 states. 

"Depends on what portion is affected. So your legs can be affected, arms can be affected, sometimes even your face can be affected," said Dr. Banu Kumar, chief of pediatric hospital medicine at Children's Hospital of Michigan. "AFM is a rare disease, but most of the cases are in children. But I guess occasionally adults can also be affected." 

If your child has a weakness, clumsiness, complains of numbness and tingling or anything neurological seek medical attention immediately.

Kumar encourages parents to make sure their children are up to date on vaccines, especially the polio vaccine. West Nile virus could also be a factor so it's important to protect children from mosquito bites.

"Get your kids vaccinated, protect them from mosquito bites, any symptoms go to your doctor, but if the symptoms are severe enough just take them to the emergency room," Kumar said.

Beyond getting up to date on vaccinations, Kumar said basic good hygiene like hand-washing is important to help protect them from a variety of viruses.

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