NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM/CNN) – Cases of a rare polio-like illness that are turning up across the country are also appearing here in North Texas.
There have been dozens of cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in the U.S. this year, including three at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth.
The rare, poorly understood, polio-like illness is thought to attack the body’s nervous system — specifically, the spinal cord — and can cause paralysis. But unlike polio, there is no vaccine for AFM.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there have been 38 confirmed cases of AFM so far this year — with the most cases, 14, reported in Colorado and six in Minnesota.
The disease typically affects children.
The CDC’s website explains, “A doctor can tell the difference between AFM and other diseases with a careful examination of the nervous system, looking at the location of the weakness, muscle tone and reflexes.”
AFM cases first spiked in the United States in August 2014. By the end of that year, 120 people had been diagnosed in 34 states.
Symptoms of AFM include limb weakness, facial drooping and trouble swallowing or talking. Doctors stress the importance of recognizing the early signs of the disease and seeking care as soon as possible.
Doctors are encouraging people to practice what are called “general prevention strategies” — including washing your hands with soap and water, getting vaccinated and preventing mosquito bites.
CBS 11 News reached out to Cook Children’s for more information, but so far the hospital has only confirmed three cases of AFM and that they’re looking at a suspected fourth case.
For more on AFM, click here.