Colorado sees spike in cases of rare polio-like illness in children

14 cases of acute flaccid myelitis in Colorado

DENVER — Doctors are reporting a rare polio-like illness in children is once again spiking around the country, including in Colorado. Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a spinal disease the can leave children with permanent paralysis. 

Health officials report 14 cases in Colorado so far in 2018.

It's believed AFM is connected to enterovirus.The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said of the 14 cases diagnosed so far, 11 people tested positive for enterovirus A71, one tested positive for enterovirus D68 and two people tested negative for any type of enterovirus.

"While all the patients were hospitalized, nearly all have fully recovered. There have been no deaths," CDPHE's Shannon Barbare said in a statement.

Children's Hospital Colorado saw a cluster of AFM cases in 2014, which led to more research into the rare disease. In 2016, KMGH profiled Kiko Violante, a 3-year-old boy who was diagnosed with AFM. At first all he had were typical cold-like symptoms.

"Runny nose, cough and for about a week he was like that," said Laura Violante. She wasn't too concerned — until he started having trouble walking.

"He just wasn’t walking the way he used to. I had to really support him," she said. "And then he couldn’t look at me. He started doing this rigid movement in his neck, and he couldn’t really turn."

Colorado has previously had outbreaks of the less-common enterovirus types. Enterovirus D68 sickened 11 people with AFM. Enterovirus A71 caused similar outbreaks to this year's in 2003 and 2005, the CDPHE said.

"There is no vaccination or specific treatment for enteroviruses. People with mild illness typically need treatment only for symptoms," Barbare said in a statement. "However, some illnesses caused by EV-A71 and EV-D68 can be severe enough to require hospitalization."

The CDC has a web page devoted to AFM. It says that most patients afflicted by the disease are children and that scientists have not yet determined a single pathogen detected in patients’ spinal fluid that causes AFM.

Read more about AFM here.

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