What is acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), the polio-like illness causing worry?

18 October, 2018, 12:00 | Author: Lillian Steele
  • Dept. of Health 1 case of AFM a polio-like disease confirmed in Ohio

The cases are among dozens of possible instances of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating across the country. Since the CDC started keeping track in August 2014, there have been 386 cases of AFM - mostly in children.

Most of the cases are in children who have suffered muscle weakness or paralysis, including in the face, neck, back or limbs.

Fox 2/KPLR 11's Dan Gray talked to an infectious disease specialist who said the disease isn't new but should be considered a growing health concern. In the CDC's health warning the organisation said at least 65 other patients are being assessed after they displayed symptoms of the malady.

The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure that can happen when the muscles involved with breathing become weak.

Health officials do not know what's causing the increasing number of cases of AFM.

"This is a mystery and we haven't solved it yet, so we have to be thinking broadly", said Messonnier, adding, "You'd think that we would finding a single agent and that's not what we're finding".

Sister Station WVLT is reporting that doctors diagnosed six-year-old Spencer Hill of Chattanooga with the sickness known as Acute Flaccid Myelitis. However, none of the USA patients tested positive for polio, and, according to Dr. Messonnier, none of this year's cases have been linked to West Nile virus.

The experts emphasized that even though AFM is regularly passing through the United States, it remains a rare illness. "As we work to better understand what is causing AFM, parents can help protect their children from serious diseases by following prevention steps like washing our hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites".

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"Overall, the rate of AFM over the years that it has been diagnosed which is since 2014 is less than one in a million."

Pardo-Villamizar said, "We don't know if the virus is attacking directly the spinal cord, or if the immune response against the virus is producing the damage to the spinal cord".

The two cases this year were in the southern and southeastern parts of the state.

This year's numbers are similar to 2016 and 2014.

The CDC says there are preventative measures people can take to reduce the risk of infections that could lead to AFM.

CDC is not releasing a list of the 22 states with confirmed and suspected cases because of privacy issues. Some children paralyzed by AFM have eventually regained their ability to walk, but need time. In 2015 and 2017, the counts of reported illnesses were far lower.

But some state health departments have been making public their reported cases.

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