Published: Fri, October 19, 2018
Medical | By Johnnie Horton

Outbreak of mysterious polio-like disease plagues residents in 22 states

Outbreak of mysterious polio-like disease plagues residents in 22 states

WFTV reported that the child's mother, Reba Faircloth, said her daughter started showing illness symptoms Thursday and has been in the Intensive Care Unit since Sunday.

The number is almost double the amount observed in 2017, when 33 AFM cases were found in the US.

"There is a lot we don't know about AFM and I am frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", Messonnier said. The U.S. has had 386 confirmed cases since August 2014.

According to the CDC 127 people are believed to be sick with the illness.

This year's numbers are similar to 2016 and 2014. One child with AFM died a year ago.

The long-term effects are not known, and outcomes have been different for patients, with some recovering quickly and others having lasting paralysis and requiring ongoing care.

The disease affects the nervous system, specifically the area of the spinal cord called gray matter. They say they are investigating several potential causes, including environmental toxins. According to a Tuesday press briefing, there have been 62 confirmed cases across 22 states in the U.S.A in 2018. "The data on the recently reported cluster of cases of AFM will have to be carefully evaluated to better understand the role of EV-D68 in this new outbreak".

"We don't know why in the majority of cases, we don't even find a cause for the illness, we can't determine what virus may have caused it, and so that's been challenging nationwide", said Susann Ahrabi-Fard, communicable disease epidemiologist with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

"It's very scary, and it's a serious illness for the children and families affected, but parents and family should remember that it's very rare", Dr. John Williams, chief of the Pediatric Infectious Disease division at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, told reporters Thursday.

"You see your child, who likes to run and play", she said.

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A main symptom of AFM is the onset of sudden muscle weakness in the arms and legs.

Although symptoms resemble polio, no evidence of poliovirus has been found in specimens from any case diagnosed so far, Messonnier said.

Acute flacid myelitis or AFM is not new, but cases have been on the rise since 2014.

The cases this year seem to be spread across much of the country, as were the earlier two waves.

The agency also said it will post case count updates on its website every week now, a change from the monthly updates it had been giving.

There is no evidence of infection with the mosquito-borne West Nile virus either, she says, although she still encourages parents to send their children out with bug repellent.

It is "a pretty dramatic disease", but fortunately most kids recover, Messonnier said.

But, if their child is diagnosed, parents should prepare for extensive physical therapy - therapy that isn't always covered by insurance, he said. Some children paralyzed by AFM have eventually regained their ability to walk, but need time.

Other states with cases included Colorado, Illinois and Washington.

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