Officials Warn of Polio-like Illness Affecting Children Across PA

The Wolf Administration is warning Pennsylvanians of a rare but serious disease affecting children across the state. Acute flaccid myelitis is a disease that affects the nervous system mostly in children, causing weakness in the arms and legs, and can be deadly.

“Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare and potentially life-threatening disease that is affecting residents across the state,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “At this time, the exact causes or source of this disease is unknown.”

Pennsylvania has three confirmed cases and one suspected case in 2018.

  • 2017 – 1 confirmed case
  • 2016 – 7 confirmed cases
  • 2015 – 0 cases
  • 2014 – 7 confirmed cases

Symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs. Some other symptoms that patients may have include:

  • Facial droop/weakness,
  • Difficulty moving the eyes,
  • Drooping eyelids, or
  • Difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech.

Parents who observe these symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis should get their child to a health care provider immediately.

The Department of Health is working with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to confirm diagnoses of acute flaccid myelitis. The source of the illness is unknown, although possible causes may include viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders, or an unknown combinations of factors.

And while the causes of acute flaccid myelitis are not known, it is important to practice disease prevention steps, such as staying up-to-date on vaccines and washing your hands.