Health authorities are on high alert to stop a polio-like virus spreading to Australia.
Health authorities are on high alert to stop a polio-like virus spreading to Australia.

Warning about deadly virus paralysing kids

DOCTORS and health authorities are on high alert to stop a terrifying polio-like virus, which has paralysed children in the UK and the US, from spreading to Australia.

One of the nation's top infectious disease experts has praised the Department of Health for its expert policing of the challenging disease acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), which attacks children of an average age of seven.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US set up a taskforce in November to help find the cause of the condition.

The US has recorded almost 500 cases since 2014.

Professor Robert Booy, head of clinical research for the National Centre for Immunisation Research, said there had been an outbreak of polio in Papua New Guinea due to low vaccination numbers.

However he praised Australian health authorities on their fast action to stop any spread from our neighbours.

"The Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit is taking this very seriously. Their mission is to keep Australia polio-free and all the country's paediatricians have been directed to report any case where there are symptoms of AFP for further investigation," Prof Booy said.

While the condition is rare it can be very serious, leaving some children permanently paralysed from head to toe.

The CDC has reported that more than 90 per cent of people who have experienced AFP had a mild respiratory illness or fever consistent with a viral infection before it developed. Children are more prone to viral infections. The virus affects motor neurons on the spinal cord.

"The Australian Government Department of Health provides funding to the Paediatric Active Enhanced Disease Surveillance (PAEDS) network, the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) and the National Enterovirus Reference Laboratory (NERL), which undertake surveillance of acute flaccid paralysis in Australia," a Department of Health spokesman said.

"These surveillance systems, along with our strong partnerships with experts and state and territory health departments, ensure that cases of AFM (acute flaccid myelitis, a type of AFP) in Australia can be readily identified, and actions can be taken to manage and treat the symptoms of AFM in children," he said.

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