UPMC confirms 3 suspected cases of rare disease that paralyzes children

Cases of a rare polio-like illness that are turning up across the country are also appearing here in North Texas.

The Washington State Department of Health is working with Centers for Disease Control experts to determine if the cases are acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

The disease, which attacks the nervous system, is not contagious from person to person but may be spread by a virus or the likes of mosquito bites . But unlike polio, there is no vaccine for AFM.

The Star Tribune reports the polio-like disease came to the attention of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014 after clusters were discovered in Colorado and California.

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This disease affects the nervous system, specifically the area of a person's spinal cord called gray matter, according to the CDC.

"There's a sudden onset of weakness in the arm, leg, face, or the muscles that help us swallow and that we use to speak", says Dr. Amaran Moodley from the Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa.

Nine cases of AFM were reported in Washington state in 2016. Doctors stress the importance of recognizing the early signs of the disease and seeking care as soon as possible. Most of the cases nationwide have been in children.

The Health Department says there are no specific recommendations for avoiding AFM, but recommends washing your hands with soap and water, avoiding close contact with sick people, cleaning surfaces with a disinfectant, and staying up-to-date on recommended immunizations.

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