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


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a suspected case of Acute Flaccid Myelitis in New Hampshire. The CDC has been monitoring an increase in cases since 2014 and on Tuesday reported that it has confirmed 386 instances of AFM across the country over the last four years, a lot of them involving children.

"We understand that people, particularly parents, are concerned", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director for the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a teleconference call with reporters.

Still, because this is a "pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier said health officials want to raise awareness about the symptoms to make sure parents seek medical care immediately if their children show a sudden onset of weakness or loss of muscle tone in their arms and legs.

The average age of patients with confirmed cases of AFM is 4 years old, according to the CDC.

The states reporting confirmed cases are Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.

The symptoms appear about one week after the children start experiencing a fever or respiratory problems.

CNN has reported that this year, more than half of all USA states have had confirmed or possible cases, including North and SC.

And despite the resemblance to polio, officials have ruled out poliovirus as a cause of the illnesses.

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According to CNN, at least 30 states have cases that were confirmed, suspected or being investigated.

Possible causes being considered include viruses that affect the digestive system called enteroviruses, and possibly strains of rhinoviruses, which cause the common cold, she said.

AFM was first detected in 2014, when 120 cases were confirmed. The CDC actually doesn't know what causes the disease or much about it at all.

Besides viruses, officials are also considering environmental toxins as a possible cause, but so far, they have no evidence that a particular toxin is behind the cases.

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.

The number is almost double the amount observed in 2017, when 33 AFM cases were found in the US.

"Families really sticking with it are seeing slow but steady recovery", he said. She noted the confirmed cases are in 22 states. Numbers dropped drastically in 2015 and 2017 - to 22 and 33, respectively - but were back up again in 2016 at 149.