Epidemiologist: No real cure for "polio-like" illness


Two cases of acute flaccid myelitis, a polio-like illness has been confirmed in eastern Nebraska.

NTV News spoke with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to learn more on this rare disease that causes muscle weakness.

An epidemiologist with DHHS says they have very strict criteria.

In order to call it a case, the epidemiologist says a spinal fluid assessment, an x-ray and MRI of the spinal cord are required.

The illness affecting children under the age of 18.

Downtown on the bricks in Kearney, one mother says news of the polio-like illness makes her nervous.

"Well polio back in the day wasn't so fun. Now that it's possibly coming back, it's something that we really need to look into. Cancer is getting thicker, a lot of illnesses are getting thicker so it's really something we need to think about," said one mother

Other parents say it seems unlikely their child will get it.

"It's a rare thing to me so I don't really worry about my kids getting it," said another mother

"It's really not. It seems rare enough that I'm not concerned about it, said a third mother

With many other illnesses causing muscle weakness, state epidemiologist Dr. Tom Safranek highly recommends getting your child checked out just to be safe.

Fortunately, Dr. Safranek says AFM is not spreading quickly right now.

"One of the things that helps us from a public health standpoint is that it does not seem to be spreading from person to person. We have not seen clusters in daycare centers, in families, in schools; it does not seem to be spreading from person to person, said Dr. Safranek.

He does say there are many unanswered questions surrounding the disease, like what's causing it.

"One of the things we're doing very carefully right now is trying to immediately collect diagnostic specimen. Respiratory secretions, sputum, blood, stool samples so we can look for a causative organism. We're looking for a bug; a virus that could be causing this," said Dr. Safranek.

Dr. Safranek says currently there aren't any really good treatments for this illness.

"You know we try to stabilize individuals, provide an excess of support and care and do everything possible to work on rehabilitation," said Dr. Safranek.

The Centers for Disease Control also released a chart showing the number of cases each year nationally.

Starting in 2014, a spike is shown in the illness every other year.

Dr. Safranek says those numbers are a current observation, and they are still unsure of why the patterns show like that.

He says there is no cure as of right now.

In order to prevent your child from getting the illness, he says there is no real good advice.

If anything, health professionals encourage parents to get their children the recommended vaccinations to minimize serious infections.

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