Published: Wed, October 17, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

CDC Warns Of Polio-Like Mystery Illness That's Paralyzing Kids

CDC Warns Of Polio-Like Mystery Illness That's Paralyzing Kids

CNN learned that both North Carolina and SC are among 30 states with confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis.

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

"There is a lot we don't know about AFM and I am frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", Messonnier said.

The MDH says the case is now being reviewed, and did not provide information regarding where in the state this particular case was diagnosed, or whether or not the child is in the hospital.

The peculiar illness causes weakness in the limbs, loss of muscle tone, and may also result in neck pain, headache, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and in the worst of cases, respiratory failure.

Media reports in recent weeks have suggested that a "polio-like virus" might be triggering the condition, elevating fears that it might be polio itself. Most of the cases have involved children.

Kate Fowlie, a spokeswoman for the CDC, said in an email that many states are voluntarily reporting their data on the disease and that "many parents are coming forward to tell their stories".

Symptoms of AFM are similar to polio. AFM appears to be seasonal, occurring mostly in the late summer and fall, but appears in greater numbers every other year.

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Here is what is known about the disease that has had 127 confirmed or suspected cases in 22 states as of Tuesday, including Pennsylvania. The CDC knows of one child who died with the disorder in 2017.

"We have not been able to find a cause for the majority of these AFM cases", she said.

Once diagnosed, some patients have recovered quickly, but some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care, Messonnier said. Testing of affected children has turned up a smattering of infections - some by enteroviruses, which is the broad family to which polioviruses belong, but also rhinoviruses, which cause head colds. "We recommend seeking medical care right away if you or your child develop sudden weakness of the arms and legs". But mysteriously no other country has reported the emerging every-two-years pattern seen in the U.S., Messonnier said.

CDC officials say some possible suspected causes, like polio and West Nile virus, have been ruled out.

Parents can best protect their children from serious diseases by taking prevention steps, such as washing their hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites, Messonnier said.

The CDC referred calls to individual state health departments.

In research developments, a team based at the J. Craig Venter Institute conducted experiments to see if a specific EV-D68 genotype is linked to neurologic symptoms and found that some viruses from the 2014 outbreak can infect neuronal cells.

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