Wayne Co. confirms 1st case of nervous system disease in Mich.

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

The first case of a polio-like illness in Michigan has been confirmed, health department officials said Wednesday. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said it was notified Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirming the first case of acute flaccid myelitis in 2018 in a child from Wayne County.

No other details were provided about the child or the severity of the illness. Seven suspected cases of AFM in Michigan remain under investigation, according to the Health Department.

The CDC has said it believes the 2018 cases have “peaked” for the year. They say AFM has followed a distinct pattern for the last few years, with every other year bringing a high number of cases. This has been a year with high numbers.

AFM is a rare but serious condition affecting the nervous system and can cause muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak. Most patients report having a mild respiratory illness or fever consistent with a viral infection before developing AFM, the Health Department said. 

As of Nov. 30, the CDC has confirmed 134 cases of AFM in 33 states, mostly in children. The CDC estimates that less than one to two in a million children in the United States will get AFM annually, state officials said. 

Most people will have a sudden onset of arm or leg weakness in addition to loss of muscle tone and reflexes. Some people also will have:

 Facial droop/weakness

 Difficulty moving the eyes 

 Drooping eyelids 

 Difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech 

Numbness or tingling is rare in people with AFM, although some people have pain in their arms or legs, according to the CDC. Some people with AFM may be unable to urinate. The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure that can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak. In very rare cases, the process that triggers AFM also may trigger other neurological complications that could lead to death. 

One death was confirmed in 2017, according to the CDC. 

Those with symptoms are advised to seek medical care immediately. The doctor may collect information about the symptoms and send the information to health departments. This is because the CDC is asking doctors to be alert for patients with symptoms of AFM so that more can be learned about the condition.

There is no specific treatment for AFM, but a neurologist may recommend intervention on a case-by-case basis, according to the CDC. The agency states on its website that it is "working closely with national experts to better understand how to treat AFM and update our clinical management considerations (and) ... also working to understand the long-term outcomes (prognosis) of people with AFM." 

For information, go to the MDHHS Communicable Disease Information and Resources website or CDC.gov/AFM.

The Associated Press contributed.