March 20, 2019

US Health Officials Puzzled by Mystery Paralysis Spreading in Children

18 October 2018, 12:25 | Randall Craig

Five kids in Maryland may have a polio-like disease, as CDC investigates

Case Of Polio-Like Illness Acute Flaccid Myelitis Confirmed In Mass.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating whether these children are infected with acute flaccid myelitis, a rare neurological illness.

20, the CDC had confirmed 38 cases in 16 states, which aren't required to report AFM cases to the CDC.

"We know this can be frightening for parents", said Dr. NancyMessonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

ABC News Videos A girl recovers after contracting acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system and causes the body's muscles and reflexes to become weak. She said that most AFM cases occur in the late summer and fall.

More than 90 percent of the cases involved children 18 or younger, with an average age of just 4 years old. Then two years later, when we had another outbreak in 2016, there was much less of an association with enterovirus D68, so we came to the conclusion that we can't definitively prove that there's a direct causal relation to anything right now. 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. Between January and August 2018, there were fewer than five cases reported, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which they say is within the "normal range" of the disease. "Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now". But Messonnier said that, in general, parents can help protect their children from diseases by washing their hands, making sure their children are up to date with vaccinations and applying insect repellent to protect against mosquito bites, which can spread viruses.

The outlook for patients with AFM can vary from a quick recovery to ongoing paralysis, Messonnier said.

MA has seen a total of 16 confirmed cases in children since 2014, plus one probable case in an adult.

On a Facebook page dedicated to the disease, one parent posted that her daughter was diagnosed with AFM four years ago after catching enterovirus. CDC has tested every stool specimen from every AFM patient.

Nancy Messonnier, a doctor at the CDC, called it a "mystery illness". No pathogen has been consistently detected in the patients' spinal fluid.

There is no specific treatment for AFM, but neurologists who specialize in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses may recommend certain interventions, such as physical or occupational therapy, on a case-by-case basis.

The disease made headlines recently when news broke of cases in Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Iowa and other states.

CNN reached out to health departments in every state; 48 states responded, plus the District of Columbia.

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

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