Scottsdale doctor emphasizes rarity of mystery illness paralyzing children
PHOENIX — A rare illness that has left some children temporarily paralyzed in 22 states, including two in Arizona, may be worrying to parents, but a Phoenix-area physician said there were specific symptoms to look for in their child.
Children typically will develop a respiratory virus. “Every kid does,” Scottsdale’s Dr. Terry Simpson said Thursday on KTAR 92.3 FM Bruce St. James and and Pamela Hughes.
But if they begin to complain “their arms don’t work well or their legs don’t work well or they get a facial droop — stroke-like — that’s the time to bring them in,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control said this week there were 62 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis and another 60 possible cases.
The median age of patients is 4 but teenagers have also been diagnosed and hospitalized.
“Parents sometimes don’t want to go the ER … but if (a child complains of weakness in limbs), take it seriously,” Simpson, a surgeon, said.
Not much is known about the cause of the ailment but children affected have suffered from severe muscle weakness or paralysis in the face, neck and limbs.
“In some kids, this progresses to where they can’t breathe and they need the help of a ventilator,” Simpson said.
“It’s similar to polio (but) it is not polio,” he added.
But medical experts still don’t know exactly they are dealing with, so the sudden onset of muscle weakness in a child with a respiratory virus would make it unusual.
“If you have a kid that has the symptoms, we will treat their symptoms and hopefully they will get better,” Simpson said.
He said of the 394 cases confirmed since 2014, there was one death.
To put the scare in perspective, Simpson said, last year there were 189 confirmed child deaths from the flu.
One child has died from acute flaccid myelitis in the past nine years.