Polio-like illness causing paralysis in children reaches the Carolinas

Maricruz Casares
Октября 17, 2018

Most of the cases have involved children.

The surge has baffled health officials, who on Tuesday announced a change in the way the agency is counting cases.

State and national health authorities are raising the alarm about a polio-like "mystery illness" that has left dozens of children with paralysis and other symptoms in MA and 21 other states. Several cases have been linked to enteroviruses or other germs, but officials have not been able to find a cause for the majority of the cases.

Messonnier said the search for a cause is frustrating, and so far, no particular pathogen or immune response has been identified that would explain the big AFM peaks.

Although symptoms resemble polio, no evidence of poliovirus has been found in specimens from any case diagnosed so far, Messonnier said. In 2017, one person died of AFM.

The long-term effects of the disease are also unknown.

The illness affects the patient's spinal cord.

AFM is still extremely rare.

USA health officials on Tuesday reported a jump in cases of AFM.

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As many as 127 confirmed or suspected cases of the disease have been identified this year across a region that includes 22 different states. 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. Parents should seek medical care right away if their child develops sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms and legs.

Once diagnosed, some patients have recovered quickly, but some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care, Messonnier said.

Although it is too early to understand how the current season compares to previous ones, she noted, the nation is "on track with what was seen in 2014 and 2016" and will probably have the same number of cases.

"This is actually a pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier told reporters on Tuesday.

So far, AFM has affected fewer than one in a million people in the United States each year. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said. "We certainly don't want to alarm people because it's very rare, but at the same time, I believe it's something that's best to have checked out".

"They are generally seeking medical care and being evaluated by neurologists, infectious disease doctors and their pediatricians".

Because officials don't know the cause of AFM, they can't recommend a specific way to prevent it. Messonnier said West Nile virus, which had been listed as a possible cause on CDC's website, is not causing the illnesses. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states. Most of the cases have occurred in children. Officials will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases.

The CDC is investigating the outbreak.

The agency doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing this condition or the reasons they may be at higher risk.

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