Published: Thu, October 18, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

U.S. CDC confirms 62 cases of rare polio-like neurological condition

U.S. CDC confirms 62 cases of rare polio-like neurological condition

Officials said three cases of acute flaccid myelitis have been reported in North Carolina this year - two probable and one confirmed.

While the cause of AFM is not clear, experts say it can occur as a result of a variety of viral illnesses including the polio virus, enteroviruses, West Nile virus, and adenoviruses.

Asked about the discrepancy between the CDC's report of 22 states versus CNN's report of 30 states with cases, Messonnier said, "the 22 states that we're reporting are the states that have confirmed cases".

About 120 confirmed cases were reported in 2014.

"We don't know why in the majority of cases, we don't even find a cause for the illness, we can't determine what virus may have caused it, and so that's been challenging nationwide", said Susann Ahrabi-Fard, communicable disease epidemiologist with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

A Tennessee mother says her son is the latest victim of a mysterious polio-like disease that is concerning parents across the country. In the most severe cases, patients suffer respiratory failure when the muscles involved with breathing become weak, the CDC says.

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A risky and rare disease that's similar to the polio virus is on the rise in the U.S., and it has health officials baffled.

Follow-up with patients from the 2014 and 2016 waves has shown that most children do not recover from acute flaccid myelitis, for which there now is no cure. "We actually don't know what's causing this increase", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, of the CDC.

The cause of the disorder has not yet been identified.

Doctors diagnose AFM based on a combination of the patient's symptoms and an MRI scan. However, none of the USA patients tested positive for polio, and, according to Dr. Messonnier, none of this year's cases have been linked to West Nile virus.

The condition remains very rare. "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 our hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites".

Dr. Leslie Benson, assistant director of Children's pediatric neuroimmunology program, said AFM patients show a wide spectrum of symptoms.

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The condition is not new, but officials started to see a rise in cases in 2014; and there was another spike in 2016.

"Early intervention is definitely always helpful".

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 children paralyzed by AFM have eventually regained their ability to walk, but need time.

Cases have been reported in 22 states, including some in our area. States are not required to provide this information to CDC, but they have been voluntarily reporting their data.

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.

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