Viewpoint: How physicians are fighting the polio-like illness sickening kids

After the CDC reported 286 cases of possible and confirmed acute flaccid myelitis, the polio-like illness affecting children, physicians want the public to know they are working to find the best treatments, three physicians with Washington, D.C.-based Children's National Health System write in a STAT op-ed.

Five insights from the op-ed, written by Roberta DeBiasi MD, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases, Elizabeth Wells, MD, medical director of the neurosciences unit, and Jessica Carpenter, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and neurology:  

1. "Parents have a right to be concerned about this illness. But they should also know that AFM is rare, a one-in-a-million event," the physicians wrote. "It does not spread within families, hospitals or towns.

A virus called enterovirus D68, along with other viruses that cause respiratory and diarrheal illness, has been connected to AFM, but a definitive cause has not been found, the authors said.

"This isn't because we aren't looking: Physicians, scientists, and public health officials are working tirelessly to find answers and the best treatments," said the authors.

2. Since AFM first appeared in news headlines in 2014, progress has been made in epidemiologic and research data, which is shared across centers to standardize how children with the illness are treated.

3. Children's National Health System has long had specialized programs to fight emerging infections and neuroinflammatory disorders, which includes AFM.

"Thanks to our program and similar programs in place at other pediatric medical centers, evidence-based, standardized clinical pathways now guide the evaluation and treatment of every child suspected to have acute flaccid myelitis," the physicians wrote.

4. Additionally, the CDC recently standardized and publicized case definitions to help identify children with AFM and announced a new task force on the disease. The task force aims to publicize its first report in early December.

5. "Clinicians in our program and similar ones at other pediatric centers across the country apply continually updated information to guide a standardized approach to evaluate and treat children with acute flaccid myelitis and help them achieve the best possible chance of full recovery," the physicians concluded.

More articles on clinical leadership and infection control:
AFM outbreak up to 116 cases in 31 states, CDC says
Olympus backs scope quality after lawsuits claim product caused infection outbreak
2 more infant deaths reported amid bacterial outbreak at New Jersey NICU

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