'Polio like' illness spreads to 22 states

Frederick Owens
October 18, 2018

"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".

So far this year, there have been 62 cases of AFM across the nation. "Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now", Messonnier said.

Messonnier said the CDC has definitively ruled out polio - which causes a similar set of symptoms - as the cause.

It shows distinct abnormalities of the spinal cord gray matter on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The CDC received information on 33 confirmed cases of AFM across 16 states in 2017, 149 cases in 39 states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed cases in 22 states overall.

One child has died of the condition, called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

When AFM strikes, patients experience sudden weakness, as well as loss of muscle tone and reflexes in the arms and legs.

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As CDC scientists search for the root cause of the mysterious ailment, the organisation has urged healthcare providers to be extra vigilant when dealing with patients displaying limb weakness and mobility issues.

CNN did not have any reported cases in Missouri but our news partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported at least one child had sought treatment at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

The states reporting confirmed cases are Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. Between August 2014 and September 2018, 362 cases were confirmed by the CDC.

Messonnier said that officials have not been able to find the cause of the illness. Although the cause remains a mystery in the majority of cases, the 2014 jump coincided with "a national outbreak of severe respiratory illness among people caused by enterovirus D68", though it wasn't found in all patients, according to the CDC. It affects fewer than one in a million people each year across the country, the CDC estimates.

Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist who has treated children with AFM at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, said AFM is "exquisitely rare".

"As a parent myself I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", Messonnier said.

Generally, most children with AFM see subtle improvements over time, but "most have long-term weakness", she said. It could be potentially deadly if the diaphragm is paralyzed because the child would be unable to breathe.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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