More confirmed cases of paralyzing, polio-like disease at Montreal Children's Hospital

The Montreal Children's Hospital is seeing a bump in cases of a viral disease that causes paralysis, primarily in children.

There's no cure for the viral disease AFM — and it most often affects children

Marie-Lynne É​mond's daughter, Geneviève, was admitted to the Montreal Children's Hospital and diagnosed with AFM. (Radio-Canada)

The Montreal Children's Hospital is seeing a bump in cases of a viral disease that causes paralysis, primarily in children.

The symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, have been described as similar to those of polio.

Dr. Christos Karatzios is a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the Montreal Children's Hospital. He said a large hospital will normally see one case of AFM per year.

In the last three months, he said the Children's has seen three cases of AFM.

"The third patient came in, and I'm like, 'something's wrong,'" said Karatzios, adding that there are two cases currently being treated at Montreal's Sainte-Justine Hospital as well.

There have also been a higher-than-average reported number of cases in Ontario and the United States. In the U.S. alone, 62 cases have been confirmed in recent weeks.

Doctors do not know what causes the ailment, nor are they sure why more cases have been reported recently. Children are the victims in the vast majority of cases and doctors are not exactly sure why.

About 90 per cent of the cases are children who have suffered muscle weakness or paralysis, including in the face, neck, back or limbs.

Early symptoms include fever and headaches. 

Rapid onset 

That's exactly what happened to the daughter of Marie-Lynne É​mond. Four-year-old Geneviève came home from school with a bad fever, but when she had trouble standing the next day, her parents realized there was something seriously wrong.

Geneviève was transported from her hometown of Maniwaki, Que. to the Montreal Children's Hospital. She is unable to move her arms and legs.

"We can't even understand, so how can we ask her to understand?" said É​mond.

She was transferred to Montreal Children's Hospital, where she is still a patient.

There is no antibiotic that cures AFM, however, many patients do regain the use of their bodies.

Karatzios said he doesn't want people to panic, but does want parents to be vigilant.

"If you start seeing symptoms of droopy face, if the child starts to complain that their hands and feet feel numb, if suddenly they're weak ... if you see a toddler walking one day, and then not walking the next day, my recommendation is, at that point, go to the emergency room," he said.

With files from Matt D'Amours and Brennan Neill