CDC: 'Mystery illness' leaving dozens of children paralyzed

Cheryl Sanders
October 18, 2018

States reporting suspected cases or cases under investigation are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Washington.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is warning about a rare mysterious illness affecting American children, which can cause "polio-like" symptoms. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states.

The CDC is investigating 127 reported cases, including the ones that have been confirmed.

The other case of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, occurred in August, and four others are under investigation in MA.

"We understand that people particularly parents are concerned", Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a here media briefing on Tuesday.

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History: The CDC has no idea why there has been a spike in cases, though there have been similar spikes in 2014 and 2016, according to Fox News.

The spikes were significantly higher in 2014, 2016 and 2018-to-date than in 2015 or 2017. The CDC actually doesn't know what causes the disease or much about it at all.

The CDC said the West Nile virus, adenoviruses, poliovirus and non-polio enteroviruses are also possible reasons why the illness has begun spreading. However, none of the USA patients tested positive for polio, and, according to Dr. Messonnier, none of this year's cases have been linked to West Nile virus.

Officials say AFM is a neurological condition that affects the nervous system and spinal cord.

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. In extreme cases, paralysis and death can occur.

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There is no treatment specifically for AFM, but affected children can undergo physical and occupational therapy to maximize their strength and adapt to their limitations.

The Douglas County Health Department's Phil Rooney said, "This is not a diagnosis like flu or other diseases where you can do blood draw fluids". There have now been a total of 386 confirmed cases since 2014.

As far as prevention, doctors recommend the polio vaccine but also say to practice good hygiene. There is no specific treatment for the disorder.

The CDC says it seems to be following an every other year pattern that emerges in the fall. 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.

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