CDC, partners probe 127 polio-like cases in 22 states

Posted October 20, 2018

Since the condition was first recognized by CDC in 2014, the agency has confirmed 386 cases nationally through October 16, mostly in children.

There are now 62 confirmed reports of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, an illness similar to polio, across 22 states in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One child who contracted AFM - which affects the nervous system via the spinal cord - died previous year.

Two children in MA have contracted a serious, rare illness that causes muscle weakness and paralysis, according to the state's Department of Public Health.

Since August 2014, CDC has seen an increased number of people across the United States with AFM.

More than 90 percent of the cases are in children 18 years and younger.

Has anyone died from AFM?

"AFM is a very rare and serious condition", Messonnier said, urging parents to take preventive steps such as encouraging hand washing, ensuring that children receive recommended vaccinations, and making sure they wear insect repellent.

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The rare AFM condition mostly presents in children but so far a cause or consistent patient pathogen has alluded doctors. No geographic clustering has been found and there is no other "unifying factor to explain the peaks", she added. Another kind of virus is suspected, but it's been found in only some of the cases.

"Oftentimes, despite extensive lab tests, the cause of a patient's AFM is not identified". Figures show that the average age of an AFM patient is four.

While the virus has similarities with polio, Messonnier stressed that polio was not the cause of the disease.

"There is a lot we don't know about AFM", Messonnier said during a teleconference for reporters.

For example, the CDC doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or why some are at higher risk, she said. Some patients recover quickly while others may require physical therapy before regaining movement.

The CDC referred calls to individual state health departments.

Although there has been at least one confirmed AFM case each month since 2014, it's too soon to interpret a trend, according to the CDC. Fifteen states said they'd confirmed cases this year.

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This year there have been 62 confirmed cases - a figure comparable to 2014 and 2016, the CDC said. "There's going to be a delay, a lag in the timing of some of these reports".

Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare disease that resembles polio.

Lacking an established cause, health officials confirm cases through a review of brain scans and symptoms. The CDC will determine if the samples are positive for AFM.The cases were reported from hospitals in Birmingham a Mobile.

The CDC is not sure why there was a rise in cases of AFM in 2014. In 2016, that number rose to 149.

"This disorder presents just like paralytic polio used to present back in the 1940s", says Patterson, who's also a Mayo Clinic professor of neurology, pediatrics, and medical genetics.

At Upstate Medical, there have been two patients treated with a strand of enterovirus associated with the polio-like disease.

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