Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

USA health officials alarmed over paralysing polio-like disease affecting children

Cases of Mysterious Paralyzing Illness Acute Flaccid Myelitis Reported in 22 states Five kids in Maryland may have a polio-like disease, as CDC investigates
Anna Jefferson | 18 October, 2018, 14:57

Officials at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City said two cases of AFM have been confirmed at the hospital.

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. However, none of the US patients tested positive for polio, and, according to Dr. Messonnier, none of this year's cases have been linked to West Nile virus.

There is now no cure for AFM, known cause in most cases, or clear explanation for why some people who contract the enterovirus experience symptoms and others do not.

The increase in cases appeared to begin in 2014, when the CDC started tracking the illness.

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.

No cases of polio have originated in the USA since 1979, while in Australia, the last case of the disease caused by a locally acquired virus was in 1972.

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The illness has been compared to the polio and West Nile viruses. Symptoms include neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

AFM is extremely rare, according to CBS, and the CDC estimates that less than one in a million people in the US will get it every year.

Dr. Leslie Benson, assistant director of Children's pediatric neuroimmunology program, said AFM patients show a wide spectrum of symptoms.

Messonnier said some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly while others continue to struggle with paralysis. Scientists are investigating a number of causes, including viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders, the CDC said on its website. Some children paralyzed by AFM have eventually regained their ability to walk, but need time. Testing of affected children has turned up a smattering of infections - some by enteroviruses, which is the broad family to which polioviruses belong, but also rhinoviruses, which cause head colds. Since 2014, 386 cases have been reported. To help prevent the illness' spread, the CDC advises proper hand washing, staying up to date on vaccines and using mosquito repellent to avoid bites.

Dr. Mobeen Rathore, chief of infectious disease and immunology at Wolfson, said in a statement that the child, who was not identified, was admitted to the hospital with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

"We want to see that education", he said, "in order to have early recognition and detection". Numbers dropped drastically in 2015 and 2017 - to 22 and 33, respectively - but were back up again in 2016 at 149.

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