Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

Rare Polio-like Mystery Illness Investigated by CDC

Acute Flaccid Myelitis A rare polio-like illness called Acute Flaccid Myelitis is being seen in children across the U.S. and now in Canada
Anna Jefferson | 25 October, 2018, 03:15

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health says it is investigating a fifth suspected case of acute flaccid myelitis, the rare, polio-like illness that causes muscle weakness and paralysis. So far, cases have been confirmed across 22 states. The CDC has confirmed a total of 386 cases of AFM have occurred across the USA from August 2014 through September 2018, mostly among children. The three children affected in Georgia are also in that age range, state officials said.

CDC stresses that AFM still remains a very rare condition, with an occurrence rate of less than one among a million people.

The CDC says the number of patients under investigation is up from 127 patients a week ago.

"CDC has been actively investigating AFM, testing specimens and monitoring disease since 2014, when we first saw an increase in cases", Messonnier told reporters last week.

Although the symptoms of AFM have been described as "polio-like", polio has been ruled out as a cause in the US cases, CDC said in a press conference.

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The CDC has a hunch that AFM can be caused by other viruses like enterovirus or west nile virus. Another cause could be a type of enterovirus called EV D68, Ellerin suggests.

It starts out with symptoms similar to a common cold, but it could cause paralysis. The most severe symptom is breathing trouble.

"I can confirm that since September, we have certainly seen an increase of patients with muscle weakness who also had a preceding viral illness", Dr. Jeremy Friedman, associate pediatrician-in-chief at the Hospital for Sick Children, told CBC. "What the physician will do is rule out other causes rule out other things that might be causing it".

Most of the AFM cases that the CDC has studied have no indication of any particular infection. "But if you are having the peaks of disease every late summer and early fall you would think we (would be) finding a single agent. That's something that we're still really learning about", Jones said. Those with spinal cord damage caused directly by the virus warrant different treatments and don't respond as well. Zika is one of the most notorious recent examples. These viruses caused symptoms including encephalitis, a life-threatening inflammation of the brain; acute flaccid paralysis, which can include AFM and similar conditions; and meningitis. And the CDC recommends staying up to date on vaccines, avoiding mosquito bites, and washing your hands as ways to possibly avoid contracting AFM.

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