Spike in mysterious polio-like disease: 155 cases now being investigated, CDC reveals

Tuesday, October 23, 2018
By Paul Martin

The CDC says 155 cases are under investigation, up from 127 reported last week
So far, 62 cases of acute flaccid myelitis have been confirmed in 22 states
The average age of those affected is four years old and more than 90 percent of cases overall are in children aged 18 and younger
The rare disease affects the nervous system and most resembles the polio virus
Most children regain movement but, in some cases, they are required to be on respirators and could even die from neurological complications

23 October 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it is investigating 28 new cases across the US of a rare-polio like illness.

That brings the total number of suspected cases to 155, with 62 cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) already confirmed in 22 states.

The average age of those affected is four years old and more than 90 percent of cases overall are in children under 18, Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, told reporters in a media call on Thursday.

The condition, caused by a viral infection, appears to start off as a common cold, before progressing to paralysis.

But health officials are struggling to determine the specific virus it is linked to or how to treat symptoms aside from waiting them out.

‘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.

AFM is a rare, but serious condition that affects the nervous system. Specifically it attacks the area of the 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 last week.

‘Or if it’s closer to the neck, 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.

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