More sickened by polio-like illness: More than 120 kids in 22 states diagnosed or suspected to have mysterious virus

Wednesday, October 17, 2018
By Paul Martin

So far, 62 children in 22 states have diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis
This is up from the previously confirmed figured of 38 children in 16 states
The rare disease affects the nervous system and most resembles the polio virus
Another 65 kids are under investigation at an average age of four years old
Most children regain movement but, in some cases, they are required to be on respirators and could even die from neurological complications
The CDC says it is not naming the six new states due to ‘privacy issues’

16 October 2018

Across the US, there are 127 confirmed or suspected cases of a rare-polio like illness, the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) revealed on Tuesday.

Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, says 62 cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) have been confirmed across 22 states.

Previously, the agency had reported that there were 38 confirmed cases of the mysterious virus in 16 states.

Meanwhile, another 65 cases are under investigation for AFM, whose symptoms start off resembling those of a common cold and affecting children at an average age of four years old.

Health officials have determined the condition is caused by a viral infection, but they have been unable to determine the specific virus it is linked to.

‘We have not been able to find the cause of the majority of AFM cases…and we’re frustrated that we haven’t been able to identify the cause of illness,’ Dr Messonnier said in a media call.

AFM is a rare, but serious condition that affects the nervous system. Specifically it attacks the area of spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the body’s muscles and reflexes to weaken.

Symptoms often develop after a viral infection, such as enterovirus or West Nile virus, but often no clear cause is found.

Patients start off having flu-like symptoms including sneezing and coughing. This slowly turns into muscle weakness, difficulty moving the eyes and then polio-like symptoms including facial drooping and difficulty swallowing.

‘If [AFM affects gray matter] lower in the spinal cord [paralysis will] be more in the legs and if it’s higher up, it’ll be more in the arms,’ Dr Fernando Acosta, a pediatric neurologist at Cook Children’s Medical Center, in Fort Worth, Texas, told Daily Mail Online in an interview on Monday.

‘Or if it’s closer to the neck, they they can’t move head, neck and shoulders. We had one case of that and that was just awful.’

In the most severe cases, respiratory failure can occur when the muscles that support breathing become weak.

In rare cases, AFM can cause neurological complications that could lead to death.

‘It’s a pretty dramatic disease; children have a sudden onset of weakness,’ said Dr Messonier.

No specific treatment is available for AFM and interventions are generally recommended on a case-by-case basis.

Children with weakness in their arms or legs may attend physical or occupational therapy.

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