Mysterious Polio-like Disorder Striking Children Around US Growing

Oct 18, 2018, 02:01

- A seventh Minnesota case of acute flaccid myelitis, a rare illness with polio-like symptoms, is under review by the Centers for Disease and Control, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. She noted the confirmed cases are in 22 states. For example, 11 of the Colorado cases of AFM this year have tested positive for EV A71, a rare type of enterovirus not usually seen in the U.S., rather in Asia and other parts of the world, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.

"At this moment, we don't know if it's a virus that is coming and producing direct damage of the gray matter in the spinal cord", he said, "or if a virus is triggering immunological responses that produce a secondary damage in the spinal cord".

The agency said 127 cases of acute flaccid myelitis have been reported so far in 2018.

Standardized surveillance was established in 2015 to monitor this illness and attempt to estimate the baseline incidence.

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From August 2014 to September 2018, 386 cases have been confirmed. The most severe symptom of AFM is respiratory failure, which can happen when the muscles needed to breathe become weak from the disease.

MA has a confirmed case of a polio-like illness that is being reported across the country. Viruses that can cause the disease include poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses and West Nile virus.

The odds of getting the polio-like disease is less than one in a million; however, two cases in the Bay State have been confirmed and four others are under investigation, the Department of Public Health announced. Though AFM has not claimed any lives this year, there was one death in 2017. But officials haven't been able to find a single agent that would explain the clusters of cases that occur around the same time.

"Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause of these AFM cases", Messonnier said.

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The CDC says it seems to be following an every other year pattern that emerges in the fall. Some patients have tested positive for enterovirus or rhinovirus.

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.

Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist who has treated children with AFM at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, said AFM is "exquisitely rare". Officials said some patients diagnosed with AFM recover quickly, while others need ongoing care. "So I think that should be reassuring to people", Dominguez said. The disorder has been diagnosed in children who have received some of their recommended vaccinations and in unvaccinated children, she said.

The CDC urges parents to be aware of this illness and to seek medical care right away if family members develop sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms or legs.

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