CDC Warns of Polio-Like Virus Striking More US Kids

Maricruz Casares
Octubre 18, 2018

At least 62 cases have been confirmed in 22 states this year, and at least 65 additional illnesses in those states are being investigated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC has not traced the virus to a specific germ, but the agency said it has a variety of causes including viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders. Between August 2014 and September 2018, 362 cases were confirmed by the CDC.

A recent CNN report found that 30 states were investigating 47 confirmed cases and another 49 suspected cases.

The rare AFM condition mostly presents in children but so far a cause or consistent patient pathogen has alluded doctors.

Despite that alarm, there are a lot of unknowns about the polio-like illness, including what causes it and why it affects children more than adults.

AFM is a condition in which the gray matter of the spinal cord becomes damaged, leading to muscle weakness and paralysis in one or multiple limbs.

"Very healthy, just, like, running around doing anything, getting into everything and then just 'bam.' It was so fast, '" Faircloth said.

There are now more than 125 confirmed or suspected cases of acute flaccid myelitis - the "mystery illness" that's been affecting children across the United States and leaving them paralyzed.

Doctors diagnose AFM based on a combination of the patient's symptoms and an MRI scan.

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"This is a pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier said. However, none of the US patients tested positive for polio, and, according to Dr. Messonnier, none of this year's cases have been linked to West Nile virus.

No cases of polio have originated in the U.S. since 1979, while in Australia, the last case of the disease caused by a locally acquired virus was in 1972.

History: The CDC has no idea why there has been a spike in cases, though there have been similar spikes in 2014 and 2016, according to Fox News.

Faircloth said she wants other parents to be aware.

Any child experiencing weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms and legs should be examined immediately. Doctors at Children's have not seen an AFM patient needing a ventilator this year, but have treated such cases in the past, Benson said.

But, if their child is diagnosed, parents should prepare for extensive physical therapy - therapy that isn't always covered by insurance, he said.

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. "You don't need an bad lot of paralyzed children to make this an important problem".

CDC is not releasing a list of the 22 states with confirmed and suspected cases because of privacy issues. In 2015 and 2017, the counts of reported illnesses were far lower.

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