A rare polio-like illness, that has seen a recent spike in diagnosed cases, has made its way into New England.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention says Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare but serious condition that affects the central nervous system in the area of the spinal cord, causing weakness. Normally an extremely rare disease, there has been an uptick in recent months, with 62 confirmed cases in 22 states. More than 90 percent of those cases have been in children, ages 18 and younger, with the average age being 4 years old. AFM can be caused by a variety of factors, like viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

None of those cases have been diagnosed in Maine, according to the Portland Press Herald, but parents are still advised to watch for symptoms, especially since 2 cases have just been confirmed in Massachusetts.

Symptoms include:

  • loss of muscle tone with arm or leg weakness
  • facial drooping or weakness
  • difficulty moving the eyes
  • drooping eyelids
  • difficulty swallowing or slurred speech

Less common symptoms include:

  • Numbness or tingling/pain in arms or legs
  • Inability to urinate
  • Respiratory failure

Anyone who develops these symptoms, or who notices them in their children, should seek medical attention immediately. Perhaps the scariest part of this disease is that there's no known treatment. Therapists may get involved, to help deal with muscle weakness but, in the end, health officials are not sure about the long-term effects of AFM.

Find more information on the U.S. CDC website. 


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