Published: Wed, October 17, 2018
Medical | By Johnnie Horton

CDC investigating more than 100 cases of polio-like illness

CDC investigating more than 100 cases of polio-like illness

Today, federal health officials expressed worry about an uptick in acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a mysterious and rare condition mostly affecting children.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that 62 cases had been confirmed in 22 states this year and an additional 65 are under investigation nationwide.

The odds of getting the polio-like disease is less than one in a million; however, two cases in the Bay State have been confirmed and four others are under investigation, the Department of Public Health announced.

Since the condition was first recognized by CDC in 2014, the agency has confirmed 362 cases. 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.

"We know this can be frightening for parents", Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

The number of cases in 2018 is on track to match a similar number of cases in 2014 and 2016.

The agency says there are several possible causes, including "viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders". Another kind of virus is suspected, but it's been found in only some of the cases.

AFM is a rare condition that affects the nervous system, causing muscle weakness.

Other symptoms of AFM include facial droop, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech.

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State and national health authorities are raising the alarm about a polio-like "mystery illness" that has left dozens of children with paralysis and other symptoms in MA and 21 other states.

"What parents have to know is if your child suddenly has a weak arm or leg, is not speaking properly, has a stiff neck or a wobbly neck - call the doctor immediately", pediatrician Dr. Laura Popper said. The CDC knows of one child who died with the disorder in 2017. Officials have been baffled by the increase, and are starting to count suspected cases as well as confirmed ones to better anticipate increases in confirmed cases over the coming months.

After testing patients' stool specimens, the CDC determined poliovirus is not the cause of the AFM cases.

The outlook for patients with AFM can vary from a quick recovery to ongoing paralysis, Messonnier said.

MA has seen a total of 16 confirmed cases in children since 2014, plus one probable case in an adult. In 2016, 22 across 17 states in 2015 and 120 across 34 states in 2014.

Because officials don't know the cause of AFM, they can't recommend a specific way to prevent it.

Many local cases have been treated at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "We recommend seeking medical care right away if you or your child develops sudden weakness of the arms and legs", she said.

States are not required to provide this information to the CDC but have been voluntarily reporting their data.

CNN reached out to health departments in every state; 48 states responded, plus the District of Columbia.

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