LSC ready to handle any potential cases of acute flaccid myelitis

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — News 18 spoke with a local school district to see how it would handle it if one of its students were diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis.

Posted: Nov 23, 2018 11:35 AM
Updated: Nov 23, 2018 11:35 AM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Cases of a polio-like illness are on the rise in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 106 cases of acute flaccid myelitis have been confirmed in 29 states. That includes one in Indiana.

News 18 spoke with a local school district to see how it would handle it if one of its students were diagnosed.

The thought of the illness can be scary for school officials like the Lafayette School Corporation's Director of Health Services, Helen Sunkel.

"I'm concerned for families and the fear that is caused by things that are unknown," said Sunkel.

At this time, it's not known what causes AFM.

IU Health Arnett Lafayette Pediatrician Dr. James Bien said most cases start with viral symptoms, like a cold.

"Science is suggesting that it's a viral caused illness, but it typically presents as a bad cold or even a stomach infection," Bien said.

But it gets worse from there.

"Muscle weakness in arms and legs, facial droop, swallowing challenges or speech difficulties that can progressively get worse," he added.

Bien said treating it can be difficult.

"There's not a specific drug to give or treatment to give to turn this off or to make it get better faster," Bien said.

Recovery is not always easy.

"Some children have had gradual recovery with therapy and support and some children have had persistent weakness," he added.

If it is a viral illness, Bien said the best way to prevent it is good hygiene. He encourages the same methods used to prevent the spread of cold and flu bugs.

Sunkel said schools are always sanitizing and encouraging good hygiene.

"They are sending children to the nurse and home if they are having signs of symptoms of any kind of an illness," Sunkel said.

If a student were diagnosed with AFM, Sunkel said parents would be notified.

Since there's a less than one in a million chance of getting it, Sunkel said she's not too concerned.

"I'm not anymore frightened of this than any other childhood illness," she said.

Both Bien and Sunkel said all vaccinations including the flu shot are also encouraged.

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