What is acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), the polio-like illness causing worry?

Glen Mclaughlin
October 18, 2018

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 62 cases of acute flaccid myelitis, a rare, polio-like condition that causes weakness in the arms or legs, across 22 states.

In total, CNN found 47 confirmed cases and 49 more that were suspected or being investigated, for a total of 96.

Last year, one child died of the disease.

The illness affects the patient's spinal cord.

CNN has reported that this year, more than half of all USA states have had confirmed or possible cases, including North and SC.

More than 120 confirmed or possible cases are under investigation nationwide, according to the CDC.

Typical symptoms of AFM are similar to those of a severe respiratory illness, along with a fever, but those often progress into neurological symptoms. They also wanted to raise awareness about the frightening condition so parents can seek medical care if their child develops symptoms, and so reports of the illness can be quickly relayed back to the CDC. Since the phenomenon began in 2014, she said, the rate of infections has been less than one case per 1 million children in the country. Some possible suspects, such as polio and West Nile virus, have been ruled out.

A sharp spike in cases of pediatric acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is raising red flags with health officials, who despite concerted efforts, haven't identified a cause. A spokeswoman for hospital said they have notified the health department and are working with the CDC to learn more about the illness.

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"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. There has been one AFM-related death, which happened in 2017.

Federal health officials took the unusual step on Tuesday of warning the public about an increase in a mysterious and rare condition that mostly affects children and can cause paralysis. It follows a peculiar seasonal pattern, with the highest incidence occurring every other year in late summer or fall. Despite extensive laboratory and other testing, CDC has been unable to find the cause for the majority of the cases. Some patients have tested positive for enterovirus or rhinovirus.

In a few cases, it appears that the illnesses were linked to viruses, including enterovirus. "Parents need to know that AFM is very rare even with the increase in cases we're seeing right now".

"This is a pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier said.

That's up from 22 people who were said to have it in 2015.

"What parents have to know is if your child suddenly has a weak arm or leg, is not speaking properly, has a stiff neck or a wobbly neck - call the doctor immediately", pediatrician Dr. Laura Popper said.

That's when we spoke with the families of 4-year-old Camdyn Carr, who's now fighting the disease, and 7-year-old Sebastian Bottomley, who previously fought AFM.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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