Rare mysterious illness ASM partially paralyzes children, and it's spreading — CDC

Glen Mclaughlin
October 20, 2018

Experts don't know what causes the disease that can lead to muscle weakness or difficulty breathing.

The spinal cord condition is caused by a polio-like enterovirus and manifests with similar symptoms, particularly muscle weakness and partial paralysis. Despite symptoms reminiscent of polio, no AFM cases have tested positive for that virus, according to the CDC. Earlier this year, he presented data from 44 patients with AFM. "It causes a lot of what [are] typically very mild sort of nuisance type diseases".

According to the National Institutes of Health, AFM is classified as a rare disease.

Since officials have been unable so far to determine how the disease spreads, they are starting to count suspected cases as well as confirmed to better anticipate increases over the coming months.

The most serious complication of AFM is respiratory failure.

Some patients recover completely, while others continue to struggle with muscle weakness.

"I am frustrated that despite all of our efforts we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", she said.
No one knows what causes AFM, although a virus or viruses are suspected.

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"We know this can be frightening for parents", Messonnier said in a news briefing. Fifteen states said they'd confirmed cases this year. "You can't tie it up in a neat bow".

Back in May 2016, Amanda Gary's daughter came down with a cold. To date, 62 of those cases, from 22 states, have been confirmed; investigations of the others are ongoing.

Since 2014 there have been almost 400 confirmed cases of AFM across the United States. In 2016, that number rose to 149. The 2014 outbreak of AFM coincided with a surge of another virus that caused severe respiratory problems, called EV-D68, However, the CDC could not establish a causal link between AFM and the virus. "But certainly if someone has been sick and starts to notice their child isn't walking or moving correctly, you should get that checked out as soon as possible". No one finding can explain all the cases, she said. She said West Nile virus has not been linked to any of these cases, either. But federal officials said that those viruses have not been linked to the US outbreak over the past four years.

"The cases are from all over the state", Ehresmann said. The study was published in the journal Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.

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 long-term effects are unknown. It's a rare disease, but the CDC thought that they might glean more about the nature of the outbreak, as well as clues about how to contain it, by releasing a report to the public.

But both Glatter and Ehresmann were quick to reiterate that AFM is very rare. The CDC estimates it affects only 1 out of 1 million people in the United States.

Massachusetts General Neurology Department Director Dr. Marcelo Matiello urged parents who see any of these symptoms to get their children to a neurologist without hesitation. Officials advised parents not to panic, but remain vigilant for any sudden onset of symptoms. She said based on the size of a Facebook group for AFM parents, the numbers are likely higher than what's been confirmed nationally.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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