Mystery illness affecting children confirmed in central Ohio

Credit: WBNS-TV

The Ohio Department of Health said there are four confirmed cases of Acute flaccid myelitis in Ohio, including one case in Pickaway County, about 30 minutes south of Columbus.

AFM is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

At a park in Circleville, 10TV met Linda Diltz and her 3-year old granddaughter, Lillian. Diltz said she'd heard of AFM, but didn't know there was a confirmed case in her county.

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"That's a scary thing to know, and we need to make sure we do everything we can with the information we do have," said Diltz.

The Centers For Disease Control is working to find the cause of AFM. So far this year, the CDC has confirmed 62 cases nationwide. Ninety percent of those cases involved children under the age of 18. The CDC said AFM affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, which can cause the muscles and reflexes in the body not to work normally.

Dr. Mike Brady, an infectious disease specialist at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said early symptoms include a mild fever and respiratory illness. Brady said within a few days to a week, patients begin to experience muscle weakness, and said this most recent outbreak appears to affect the arms.

"Most children will actually recover most of their muscle function. There are a few children who don't, but it may take many weeks or many months," explained Dr. Brady.

There are no confirmed cases in Franklin County, but the Columbus Division of Fire said it's shared information about the AFM health alert with firefighters and paramedics.

The Ohio Department of Health said it's emphasizing these points:

  • Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare medical condition that affects less than 1 in a million people in the U.S. each year.
  • While the number of acute flaccid myelitis cases have increased in the U.S. from 33 in 2017 to 62 so far in 2018, seasonal flu is a much greater health risk for most families, including children.
  • Parents can help protect their children from serious diseases by taking preventive measures like washing their hands, staying up to date on recommended immunizations and using insect repellent to prevent diseases transmitted through the bite of infected insects like mosquitoes.

To learn more about the symptoms and possible causes of AFM, click here.