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

Lynn Cook
October 18, 2018

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today that officials are investigating a spike in acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) cases, mostly in children, that looks similar to increases they saw in the late summer and fall of 2014 and 2016, with 127 cases under investigation in 22 states.

A rare illness doctors are comparing to polio is spreading in states surrounding North Dakota.

Extremely. According to the CDC, there were 38 confirmed cases in 16 states this year through September 30.

"We understand that people particularly parents are concerned", Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a here media briefing on Tuesday. The disease was first identified in 2014, but the scary part is that cases seem to be increasing.

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The spikes were significantly higher in 2014, 2016 and 2018-to-date than in 2015 or 2017.

"It can be caused by viruses, it can be caused by environmental factors or possibly a genetic disorder", Nesemeier said.

"Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause", Messonnier said, dispelling reports that AFM was possibly linked to polio. Another kind of virus is suspected, but it's been found in only some of the cases.

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

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The CDC urges parents to be aware of this illness and to seek medical care right away if family members develop sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms or legs. Seven children have been affected in that state. And though enteroviruses have been detected in some paralysis cases, it hasn't been found in others, CDC officials say.

Quinton Hill, 7, of Lakeville, Minn., lost movement in one arm last month due to a mysterious syndrome known as acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

There is no specific treatment, and most of the victims recover.

Since officials have been unable so far to determine how the disease spreads, they are starting to count suspected cases as well as confirmed to better anticipate increases over the coming months. The CDC says there are preventative measures people can take to reduce the risk of infections that could to AFM.

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The CDC is actively investigating and monitoring disease activity and recommends taking standard prevention measures such as hand-washing, protecting oneself from mosquito bites and staying up-to-date on vaccinations. 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. It's a rare disease, but the CDC thought that they might glean more about the nature of the outbreak, as well as clues about how to contain it, by releasing a report to the public.

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