What You Need to Know: Acute Flaccid Myelitis

Acute flaccid myelitis: Why is mysterious polio-like illness afflicting children so badly?

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Pittsburgh's WPXI sat down with Dr. Jennifer Preiss from the Allegheny Health Network to talk about acute flaccid myelitis, also known as AFM.

>> On WPXI.com: 3 children possibly suffering from polio-like disease being treated at Children's Hospital

“It’s bringing back a lot of hysteria, and if you knew anyone who lived during the polio time, there was a lot of hysteria about polio,” Preiss said. “Most of the time, everyone gets better and everyone is fine, but in these rare cases, there is some immune response that is attacking the muscles of these children.”

The Centers for Disease Control doesn’t know the exact cause of this virus that starts as a cold but then attacks the nervous system, causing different forms of paralysis.

Preiss says a lot is dependent on how a person’s immune system responds to this particular virus.

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“Some of the time, when people get viruses – and I’m not even speaking about this particular virus – bad things happen because we have these hyper-immune systems, and some of these hyper-immune system responses are what causes the paralysis,” she said.

The CDC is now looking at the samples taken from the children at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

It will be several weeks before we know if the virus strain in Pittsburgh is the same as the virus in Minnesota that’s affected six kids and made national headlines.

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