Polio-like illness confirmed in the Carolinas

- A scary disease causing polio-like symptoms, including paralysis, is popping up in the Carolinas.

There are two confirmed cases, one in North Carolina and one in South Carolina, of acute flaccid myelitis or AFM. Officials say there are also two probable cases in North Carolina.

Doctors say the disease looks similar to polio and affects the nervous system, specifically the area of spinal cord called gray matter, and causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak or even paralyzed.

AFM is extremely rare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that less than one in a million people in the United States will get the disease every year.

Dr. Amina Ahmed with Levine Children's Hospital has seen the disease first hand.

"There have been two cases here at Levine Children's Hospital and I've seen one of them. In that case, the child all of a sudden woke up and couldn't move his right arm. He couldn't move his hand, wrist or his arm," she said. "Through treatment and therapies, he's able to move his hand and wrist. We're still working on his arm. The other child also had the entire side of his body affected. He is gaining strength back in that side through rehabilitation and he's being treated with steroids."

Health officials are unsure of the cause of AFM, so they treat the symptoms with steroids, IVIG, and physical therapy.

"In the old days, with polio, it would not only impact the limbs, but also the respiratory muscles. If you're not getting enough oxygen, because the respiratory muscles are affected then of course it could be life-threatening. The cases we see here are disconcerting because we're worried about it moving to the respiratory muscles, but it's typically the limbs that are involved."

The best thing to do is maintain good personal hygiene. 

"Best thing you can do is prevent viral infections by not sharing utensils, kissing your children on the mouth, and transmitting it that way."
 

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