Mich. confirms 2nd case of nervous system disease

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
A second case of a polio-like illness in Michigan has been confirmed, according to state health department officials.

A second case of a polio-like illness in Michigan has been confirmed, according to state health department officials.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday the state's second case of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, in 2018 has been confirmed in a child Oakland County.

The first case was confirmed Dec. 5 and involves a child in Wayne County.

ReadWayne Co. confirms1st case of nervous system disease in Mich.

Officials said nine suspected cases of the disease in Michigan are under investigation.

"Parents should be informed about AFM," said Dr. Carla Watson, a pediatric neurologist at Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. "It's very rare, but it's very severe." 

The disease is similar to polio and affects the nervous system and can cause the muscles and reflexes of the body to become weak.

Polio is a contagious virus that causes severe nerve damage and can lead to paralysis or death. It was mostly eradicated in the U.S. by 1979 thanks to vaccines.

"AFM mostly affects young people and is very debilitating," Watson said. "You can lose your whole ability to walk and move — even move your eyes or swallow."

State officials and doctors said the cause or trigger for AFM is not yet known.

"That's the scariest part about it," she said. "We don't know exactly what it is."

Most patients report having a mild respiratory illness or fever consistent with a viral infection before developing the illness. 

Parents or guardians who suspect their children have AFM should immediately seek medical attention, Watson said.

It's not known whether the condition is permanent because some patients have been able to recover from it, but many do not, she said. 

"So far, though, we haven't seen anyone with it get worse," Watson said. "But not everyone gets better."

The Center for Disease Control had confirmed 158 cases of AFM in 36 states, mostly in children.

Despite increases in cases across the country since 2014, the CDC estimates that less than one to two in a million children in the United States will get AFM annually.

"There aren't a lot of reported cases right now," Watson said. "Unfortunately, we don't know enough about the disease to know how to prevent it, but we recommend hand-washing and keeping children home from school and other places if they're ill." 


Twitter: @CharlesERamirez