U.S. health officials alarmed over paralysing polio-like disease affecting children

Oct 20, 2018, 00:46
U.S. health officials alarmed over paralysing polio-like disease affecting children

Acute flaccid myelitis affects the spinal cord and can cause partial paralysis.

Health officials said five kids in Maryland are believed to have contracted a virus this fall that has symptoms similar to polio.

There is no evidence to support a "geographic clustering" of cases. Thirty-three cases were reported by the CDC in 2017.ADPH Epidemiologist Amanda Ingram told AL.com the CDC is testing the samples from Alabama patients.

Although some AFM patients tested positive for an enterovirus, indicating a possible link, not all had the virus. "I am frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness".

Cases similar to Tunan's son are spreading to children around the age of four nationwide. Doctors have tested AFM sufferers for poliovirus but the results came back negative. Neurological conditions like it have a variety of causes, such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders.

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Because officials don't know the cause of AFM, they can't recommend a specific way to prevent it.

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

The CDC referred calls to individual state health departments. "In this cases it's unknown", Ehresmann said.

So far this year, the CDC has confirmed 62 cases in 22 states. Also, she said there can be lags in reporting because of the time it takes to review a patient's clinical syndrome and radiographic findings. It's a rare disease, but the CDC thought that they might glean more about the nature of the outbreak, as well as clues about how to contain it, by releasing a report to the public.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, so far there has been one confirmed case in Ohio.

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Despite the recent spike in reported cases of AFM, Messonnier underscored that the disease is "incredibly rare" and has been diagnosed annually at a rate of less than one in a million since 2014. There have been cases each year since, but the numbers have been higher on alternate years.

But the data reported Tuesday represents "a substantially larger number than in previous months this year", Messonnier said.

At Upstate Medical, there have been two patients treated with a strand of enterovirus associated with the polio-like disease. "We think the majority of cases are coming to our attention".

Symptoms can include sudden limb weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial and eyelid drooping, difficulty moving the eyes, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech and, in the most severe cases, difficulty breathing, according to the CDC.

The agency also said it will post case count updates on its website every week now, a change from the monthly updates it had been giving.

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"And certainly after three cycles of this, when we've looked through all the normal agents, we're looking beyond that to see if there are things beyond normal infectious diseases that could cause this", said Messonnier.