Health district confirms child in Clark County has AFM illness

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The Southern Nevada Health District received notification from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirming the first case of Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) in a child in Clark County. 

The Health District will not be releasing identifying information related to individual cases of illness.

 “We don’t know what is the cause of most of those cases,” said Dr. Fermin Leguen, the chief medical officer and director of Clinical Services for the Southern Nevada Health District. “This is a serious condition but it’s also a very rare condition.”

It affects the nervous system, specifically the area of spinal cord called gray matter, which can cause the muscles and reflexes in certain parts of the body to become weak. AFM, or neurologic conditions like it, have a variety of causes such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. It can be a complication following a viral infection. 

Other symptoms include facial droop, difficulty moving the eyes, as well as difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech.

This condition is not new; however, the CDC has been investigating AFM since case reports increased in 2014.  A graph shows a pattern of outbreaks every other year.  Now, there are more than 380 confirmed cases that have popped up overall in the United States since 2014. 

“Most of those cases are children,” Leguen said.

Jenna Shumpert’s three-year-old son hunter was diagnosed at 15-months old after being hospitalized.

“At this point, he was paralyzed,” Shumpert said. “He could not hold his own head. He couldn’t sit and he couldn’t stand.”

A neurologist diagnosed little Hunter with Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM). 

Shumpert says she exercises with Hunter to help strengthen his muscles as well as use electronic stimulation pads to try and rejuvenate his damaged nerves.

“Nobody really knows treatment protocols, they don’t know prognosis, and they can’t really give parents an answer as to where this is coming from,” Shumpert said.

For more information regarding the CDC’s surveillance, visit the AFM Investigation page on its website.

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