Saturday, 17 November, 2018

CDC: Mysterious paralyzing illness reported in 22 states

Case Of Polio-Like Illness Acute Flaccid Myelitis Confirmed In Mass. 5 children in Maryland might have a polio-like disease. The CDC is investigating.
Ben Pena | 17 October, 2018, 15:54

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.

AFM appears to target children at around age 4.

Symptoms of AFM are similar to polio.

Nancy Messonnier, a doctor at the CDC, called it a "mystery illness". Another kind of virus was found in only some of the cases.

The CDC is actively investigating the cases and working with healthcare providers as well as state and local health departments to spread the word about AFM. Another spike came in 2016. There has been one AFM-related death, which happened in 2017. Officials have been unable to determine why the spikes are coming in waves. But mysteriously no other country has reported the emerging every-two-years pattern seen in the U.S., Messonnier said.

There is no specific treatment for the disorder, and long-term outcomes are unknown.

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. Neurological conditions like it have a variety of causes, such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders.

Officials said they are looking at an additional 65 possible cases of AFM. Maryland's first case was reported September 21.

About 90 percent of the cases are children who have suffered muscle weakness or paralysis.

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Ellerin said the staff at his hospital has been trained to recognize symptoms, and he encourages medical centers to train employees similarly before it's too late. "Parents need to know that AFM is rare even with the increase in cases we are seeing now".

The peculiar illness causes weakness in the limbs, loss of muscle tone, and may also result in neck pain, headache, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and in the worst of cases, respiratory failure.

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

After testing patients' stool specimens, the CDC determined poliovirus is not the cause of the AFM cases. She also said West Nile virus hasn't been linked to any of these cases, either.

Health officials call the condition acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). The Florida Department of Health said one case has been reported this year. "Our medical team has been reviewing vaccine records when available during this year's investigation and do not see a correlation", said CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund.

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.

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. "So we're very lucky that he had (physical therapy) through early intervention". In 2016, there were 149 cases. But some state health departments have been making public their reported cases.

States are not required to provide this information to the CDC but have been voluntarily reporting their data.

Washington Post writers Dana Hedgpeth and Justin Wm.

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