Friday, 20 September, 2019

AFM in 22 states: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Anna Jefferson | 17 October, 2018, 15:53

A rare condition causing weakness in the arms or legs - and sometimes paralysis - has been confirmed in 62 children so far this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

The CDC says pediatric acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is now affecting young children in 22 states following a recent spike in Minnesota.

There are no known cases of the illness in either Virginia or D.C., according to area health officials.

From August 2014 through September 2018, the CDC received information on a total of 386 confirmed cases of AFM across the country. Most of the cases are in children under the age of 19, with kids under the age of 4 appearing to make up the biggest portion of cases.

"For some previous cases, we have identified one pathogen or another, but we have no unifying diagnosis", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The mysterious increase in cases of AFM, as it's called, was first spotted in the late summer and autumn of 2014. The CDC doesn't know what caused the spikes.

Medical experts aren't sure what causes AFM, but it can occur as a result of a variety of viral illnesses including enteroviruses, West Nile virus, and adenoviruses. But officials haven't been able to find a single agent that would explain the clusters of cases that occur around the same time. Parents should seek medical care right away if their child develops sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms and legs.

To give parents, healthcare workers, and public health officials a look at what to expect, she said the CDC will report suspected cases this year, as well as confirmed ones.

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Asked about the discrepancy between the CDC's report of 22 states versus CNN's report of 30 states with cases, Messonnier said, "the 22 states that we're reporting are the states that have confirmed cases".

There have been no confirmed cases of AFM in Maine this year, according to Emily Spencer, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine CDC. One child with the disorder died in 2017. "So I think that should be reassuring to people", Dominguez said. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said.

More broadly, she noted, "there is a lot we don't know about AFM".

Acute flaccid myelitis, also called AFM, is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system and causes the muscles and reflexes to suddenly become weak, she said Tuesday.

But the agency doesn't know who may be at higher risk nor why they may be at higher risk.

There is no specific treatment for AFM, but neurologists who specialize in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses may recommend certain interventions, such as physical or occupational therapy, on a case-by-case basis.

So far, the CDC hasn't seen any geographic patterns based on reporting from states.

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