Dear Dr Roach • I read about a disease called acute windy myelitis that is confusing researcher. Is not this…
Dear Dr Roach • I read about a disease called acute windy myelitis that is confusing researcher. Is not this just polio renamed? – V.A.
Answer • Acute weak myelitis is really a medical mystery. The current outbreak absolutely is not caused by polio. Many people refer to it as “polio-like” because it causes sudden neurological symptoms, especially weakness and especially in young children, just like polio did before the vaccine was adopted. However, the diagnosis of polio requires the detection of poliovirus and those affected by the current outbreak have been tested for and do not have poliovirus.
The last case of polio originating in the United States was 1
979. However, vaccination for polio is still important as it can potentially be taken by a traveler from one of the few areas where there is still wild polio.
Outbreaks of acute weak myelitis have occurred in the United States and Canada every case this year. However, it appears to have increased the incidence since 2014. It is still a rare disease, on the order of one person per million per year.
There is a virus related to poliovirus called enterovirus D68 which is suspected to be one of several causes of acute myelitis. West Nile Virus is another suspected cause. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention test samples of affected children with the condition and have not consistently found a single cause.
There is no specific treatment for AFM, just as there is no treatment for polio when it affects the nerves. Early phase supportive and physical and occupational therapy during reassessment are the only accepted treatments.
Dear Dr Roach • How effective is the influenza vaccine for seniors 65 years and older? – L.F.G.
Answer • Not as much as we would like to be, but still much better than none.
The influenza vaccine is created each year based on the best available knowledge of circulating strains. The vaccine for 2017-2018 was estimated to be about 40 percent effective, meaning that those who received the vaccine were 40 percent less likely to need to see a doctor for flu.
Every year I hear people give reasons not to take flu shot. For those who say they have never taken the shot and never received flu, I say you need to get the flu once to get seriously ill. For those who say it’s not completely effective, I would say reducing your risk by 40 percent is still worth a few minutes and one sore arm for one day, which is the most common side effect.
Dr. Roach regrets that he can not answer individual letters, but will incorporate them into the column whenever possible. Readers can email questions to [email protected]