Mysterious paralyzing illness found among kids in 22 states
Oct 18, 2018, 02:04
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating 127 cases of possible AFM, including 62 that have been confirmed in 22 states this year.
However, officials have not been able to identify the cause of most of the AFM cases, or the reason for the spikes in 2014, 2016 and now 2018.
"At this moment, we don't know if it's a virus that is coming and producing direct damage of the gray matter in the spinal cord", he said, "or if a virus is triggering immunological responses that produce a secondary damage in the spinal cord".
Messonnier stressed the rarity of the condition, emphasizing that it happens in fewer than one in a million children in the U.S. So far this year, cases have been confirmed in 22 states, based on findings from MRI studies and the cluster of symptoms a child has.
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Standardized surveillance was established in 2015 to monitor this illness and attempt to estimate the baseline incidence.
CDC began tracking the condition in 2014, when there were 120 confirmed cases.
Although symptoms resemble polio, no evidence of poliovirus has been found in specimens from any case diagnosed so far, Messonnier said. But she stressed that despite the increase in cases, the illness is still very rare, occurring in fewer than 1 in a million people in the USA each year. In 2016, there were 149 cases.
In addition to viruses, potential causes may include environmental toxins and genetic disorders, according to the CDC, and it "can be hard to diagnose because it shares numerous same symptoms as other neurologic diseases".
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Since the cases were first recognized in 2014, there have been 386 cases in the United States, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters. A spokeswoman for hospital said they have notified the health department and are working with the CDC to learn more about the illness. One child died from AFM in 2017.
The CDC says the illness could be caused by viruses, environmental toxins, genetic disorders, or a condition in which the immune system attacks body tissues. That pattern appears to be repeating this year. Despite extensive laboratory and other testing, CDC has been unable to find the cause for the majority of the cases. "None of the specimens have tested positive for poliovirus". "Parents need to know that AFM is rare even with the increase in cases we are seeing now".
People can protect themselves from contracting AFM using methods similar to preventing getting the flu, Ellerin said. Some patients recover completely, while others continue to struggle with muscle weakness.
"This is actually a pretty dramatic disease", she said. "I encourage parents to seek medical care right way if you or your child develops sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in arms and legs".
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