CDC Warns Of Polio-Like Mystery Illness That's Paralyzing Kids

Ebony Scott
October 18, 2018

Parents in the metro are on guard after officials with the Douglas County Health Department revealed that there is a child in Douglas County possibly showing symptoms of a rare polio-like condition called acute flaccid myelitis or AFM.

According to the CDC, the most severe cases of AFM can lead to respiratory failure and even death.

AFM affects a person's nervous system, according to the CDC website, mainly in the spinal cord, and can present polio-like symptoms, including weakness and pain in the arms and legs.

The CDC first took notice of AFM in 2014 and before last week had only tracked around 362 cases of it in total.

Most cases of weakness and paralysis have been in children.

Similar links have been found to West Nile virus, some environmental toxins and "a condition where the body's immune system attacks and destroys body tissue that it mistakes for foreign material", Messonnier said, and while these things are known to occasionally cause AFM, they haven't found any cause for the majority of cases.

Parents and clinicians should remember that this is a rare condition, affecting less than one in a million people, she said.

Messonnier said the CDC has definitively ruled out polio - which causes a similar set of symptoms - as the cause.

Some patients diagnosed with this condition have recovered quickly but others continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care, she said.

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The cases in 2014 and 2016 were partly attributed to particular strains of respiratory germs called enteroviruses, which spread the most in the summer and fall.

After testing patients' stool specimens, the CDC determined poliovirus is not the cause of the AFM cases.

The states reporting confirmed cases are Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. "There is a lot we don't know about AFM, and I'm frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness".

So far this year, there have been 62 cases of AFM across the nation.

Some victims have been infected with viruses, but researchers have been unable to identify a single virus responsible for all cases. The average age of those afflicted is 4, and 90 percent of those with AFM are 18 or younger.

There is no treatment specifically for AFM, but affected children can undergo physical and occupational therapy to maximize their strength and adapt to their limitations.

While doctors still aren't certain if afm is contagious, they urge parents to make sure kids are washing their hands and keeping up with vaccinations, as flu season begins. Doctors at Children's have not seen an AFM patient needing a ventilator this year, but have treated such cases in the past, Benson said. Fifteen states said they'd confirmed cases this year.

Experts say the early symptoms of the disease include arm or leg weakness, and loss of muscle tone.

Other reports by GizPress

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