January 20, 2019

CDC expresses concern over mysterious surge in polio-like paralysis cases

18 October 2018, 12:26 | Rodolfo Wallace

Five kids in Maryland may have a polio-like disease, as CDC investigates

Case Of Polio-Like Illness Acute Flaccid Myelitis Confirmed In Mass.

Less than one in a million people get it each year nationwide, the CDC estimates. More than 90% have been in children, and the average age is 4 years.

This year, more than half of all USA states have had confirmed or possible cases of acute flaccid myelitis, the polio-like illness that can cause paralysis and mostly affects children, according to an exclusive CNN analysis.

"AFM is a rare, but serious condition that affects the nervous system".

A seventh case has been "clinically diagnosed", but remains under review by the CDC.

As many as 127 confirmed or suspected cases of the disease have been identified this year across a region that includes 22 different states.

The surge in cases is just as baffling as the syndrome itself: a wide variety of potential causes have been proposed, ranging from the polio virus - which the United States eradicated through vaccines decades ago - to influenza, environmental toxins and West Nile Virus. She also said West Nile virus hasn't been linked to any of these cases, either.

"About half of kids with AFM will strengthen up enough on their own that they won't require any form of surgical intervention for their nerves". "This is likely a rare complication from a common virus".

AFM outbreaks appear to follow a pattern, according to the CDC report, with a spike in cases coming every two years in the late summer and early fall.

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"There is a lot we don't know about AFM", Messonnier said during a teleconference for reporters. Though AFM has not claimed any lives this year, there was one death in 2017.

There is no specific treatment for AFM.

"As we work to better understand what is causing AFM, parents can help protect their children from serious diseases by following prevention steps like washing their hands, staying up to date on recommended immunizations and using insect repellent", Messonnier said. "Parents need to know that AFM is rare even with the increase in cases we are seeing now".

Still, because this is a "pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier said health officials want to raise awareness about the symptoms to make sure parents seek medical care immediately if their children show a sudden onset of weakness in their arms and legs.

While some research has suggested in the past that that EV-D68, an enterovirus from the same family as polio, might be responsible for AFM, Fauci discounted that conclusion. Some merely have difficulty moving the eye or the face; some have a single weakening limb. "So I think that should be reassuring to people", Dominguez said.

Generally, most children with AFM see subtle improvements over time, but "most have long-term weakness", she said.

This disease is like a "hit-and-run", Gupta said, and "you don't have evidence of the virus but you do have evidence of the aftermath so it's hard to piece together".

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