Children are being diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), the polio-like paralyzing illness, according to numbers released this week by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There have now been 106 confirmed cases of AFM in 29 states this year, according to the CDC, an increase of 16 since last week. There are also 167 possible cases of the illness, an increase of five from the previous week.
AFM is a rare illness that affects the nervous system, especially the gray matter in the spinal cord, and causes muscle weakness and sudden onset of paralysis. There’s a spectrum of how children can be affected: Some regain the use of their paralyzed limbs, while in severe cases, respiratory failure and other serious neurologic complications can occur, potentially causing death.
Most people who get AFM will experience a sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes. Others, may also experience a drooping face or eyelids, difficulty moving the eyes and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech. There is no known cause, vaccine, or cure of AFM.
The disease can often be tricky to identify, even after extensive testing, the CDC says. One primary suspect is enterovirus, a typically mild illness that usually mimics the common cold. Though enteroviruses are usually mild, in rare cases they can cause neurologic illnesses like AFM, meningitis and encephalitis.
The CDC is also advising that U.S. consumers stop eating any kind of romaine lettuce, and that retailers and restaurants not serve or sell any, until more is learned about an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli infections linked to romaine lettuce.
This includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine, and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad.
Symptoms of E.coli vary in each person, but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Most people get better within 5 to 7 days. Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening.
Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick.
If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away. Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where the romaine was stored.