January 20, 2019

Polio-Like Disease Striking Children: What You Need to Know

19 October 2018, 08:54 | Rodolfo Wallace

CDC Investigates Cases Of Rare Neurological 'Mystery Illness' In Kids

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

This year, more than half of all U.S. 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.

Here is what is known about the disease that has had 127 confirmed or suspected cases in 22 states as of Tuesday, including Pennsylvania.

Medical officials do not know how the disease is spreading or what is causing it in the first place, but we do know that it primarily affects the young - more than 90 percent of patients are under 18.

While the CDC has yet to confirm a case in Virginia, Hoff said her son Camdyn was diagnosed with AFM while hospitalized at UVA Medical Center, falling ill with the telltale symptoms.

"We actually don't know what's causing this increase", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, of the CDC. No one knows what causes AFM, although a virus or viruses are suspected.

"I am frustrated that despite all of our efforts we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", she said.

Since the condition was first recognized by CDC in 2014, the agency has confirmed 362 cases.

There were outbreaks of around 100 cases, nationwide, between August and October in both 2014 and 2016. Though AFM has not claimed any lives this year, there was one death in 2017.

The two cases this year were in the southern and southeastern parts of the state.

Unfortunately, there's no specific treatment for AFM. Scientists are investigating a number of causes, including viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders, the CDC said on its website.

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Health officials Arkansas and Oklahoma say a rare illness that's being compared to polio may have reached the states as it spreads across the U.S. Maryland's first case was reported September 21.

Across the border in Pennsylvania, officials say there have been three confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis and one suspected case.

Rarely, people with AFM can suffer respiratory failure and require ventilator support when their breathing muscles become too weak.

Katy Payne, a mother from IL, who was interviewed, said about her daughter: "I took her to the ER because she turned blue".

"As we work to better understand what's causing AFM, parents can help protect their children by washing your hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites", Messonnier said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs.

No cases of polio have originated in the United States since 1979, while in Australia, the last case of the disease caused by a locally acquired virus was in 1972. In the CDC's health warning the organisation said at least 65 other patients are being assessed after they displayed symptoms of the malady.

State health officials in Minnesota issued an alert to doctors this month after six children there were diagnosed with AFM.

MA has seen a total of 16 confirmed cases in children since 2014, plus one probable case in an adult.

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