Two people in Wisconsin have been diagnosed with a virus known as acute flaccid myelitis, and six more cases are under investigation, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Acute flaccid myelitis causes polio-like symptoms in patients diagnosed with the virus.
The two cases in Wisconsin are affecting one adult and one child in the southern portion of the state.
“AFM stands for acute flaccid myelitis, and it is a very rare neurologic complication, or a complication involving the brain and the spine of a virus,” Dr. Melissa Hidde at Bellin Health in Ashwaubenon explained. “And it is a cousin of polio.”
The illness can cause muscle weakness, paralysis, and even death, but no one has died from AFM so far this year.
“The symptoms, when they come, are sudden,” Dr. Melissa Hidde said. “So if patients or a kid would have sudden onset weakness in their arms or legs, or if they would have sudden difficulty walking, difficulty where they’re stumbling and with their balance, then they would want to get checked out.”
The cases are in 22 state right now, and most of the patients affected are children, with the average age being just four years-old.
So, should parents be worried about this? Dr. Hidde said no.
“So I would definitely tell people not to panic, this is extremely rare,” she said. “So we’re not telling people to pull their kids out of daycare, we don’t want people to pull their kids out of school, really people should not be panicking about this.”
Patients who are diagnosed with AFM can recover, but others who have lost mobility may need physical therapy to help regain their strength.
To lower your chances of getting sick from a virus like AFM, or anything else during cold and flu season, make sure you’re washing your hands and covering your cough.
“Hand-washing is the key to preventing the spread of this germ,” Dr. Hidde said.