Three cases of polio-like illness reported in Arkansas


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A Polio-like virus has been reported in Arkansas. The Department of Health confirms three cases-- all children-- with Acute Flaccid Myelitis.

AFM was first discovered in 2014, and is still so new that health professionals still don't know what causes it, how it's spread, or how to prevent it.

"Because it's so dramatic, and because it affects young children, the CDC and health authorities across the nation are dedicating a lot of resources to it right now, to try to figure out what's going on," State Epidemiologist Dr. Dirk Haselow said.

A vast majority of AFM cases are those under the age of 18, he says, but the illness mostly targets young children between ages four and five.

Doctors describe AFM as a virus or infection. Someone coming down with it would experience weakness and paralysis in their arms and legs. Unfortunately, Dr. Haselow says, even after treatment, a person will never have the same strength they had before they caught the illness.

"If a family or a child has that, it's a disaster for that family and that child, but thankfully it's rare. It's roughly one in a million," Dr. Haselow said.

While AFM is rare, it's what unknown about the illness that makes it so concerning-- and because doctors don't know what causes it, they don't know how to prevent it, Dr. Haselow says.

AFM is more common in the fall and winter months, like typical viruses.

There are currently 80 cases of AFM in the United States right now. Dr. Haselow says the three cases in Arkansas puts the state slightly above average.

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