Friday , October 22 2021

Researchers dumbfounded by polio-like paralysis hitting kids in Canada, U.S.


Before falling ill on the Labor Day Weekend, Xavier Downton, 4, was looking forward to his first season of hockey. (Downton family photo)


Nearly three months after he arrived at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario suffering from a rare polio-like condition, a four-year-old boy is back home and preparing for school.

Life is quite different for Xavier Downton than it was before he was rushed to CHEO on Sept. 4 suffering from what his family thought was the flu.

The boy, who was looking forward to starting hockey this fall, now uses a wheelchair – something doctors and therapists believe is temporary.

"They think he's going to walk again and probably run again," said his mother Rachelle Downton. "It just takes time."

And Xavier now has very little use of his right arm, which forced him to be left-handed, something he has mastered handily, says his mother.

After becoming ill over Labor Day weekend, Rachelle Downton's four-year-old son Xavier was diagnosed with Acute Flaccid Paralysis. (Julie Oliver, Postmedia)

There are many challenges ahead for Xavier and his family as a result of the damage caused by acute flaccid myelitis, the rare condition that fell on Labor Day weekend.

Acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is the term used to describe the sudden occurrence of weakness in one or more limbs as a result of inflammation of the spinal cord.

Xavier's story comes on the heels of a new report on the mysterious, rare "polio-like" disease popping up across the US. which has now spread to 31 states, sickening at least 250 children.

Here, the Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed that there were 48 probable cases of AFM across the country in 2018 – 25 confirmed and 23 being investigated.

Officials still have no idea what causes acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), nor how to treat or prevent it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently investigates some 170 cases of people with AFM symptoms.

Most patients had a mild respiratory illness or fever, consistent with a virus before becoming ill.

None of the cases have been related to the poliovirus, although the impact is similar to polio. It is a condition that is causing growing concern for public health officials this year.

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