CDC: Polio-like Illness in Children a Cause for Concern

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised concern about a surge in acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) cases affecting children nationwide.

So far in 2018, the CDC has confirmed 62 acute flaccid myelitis cases across 22 states. There are a total of 127 patients under investigation (PUI). There were 33 confirmed AFM cases in 2017 (across 16 states), 149 in 2016 (across 39 states and D.C.), 22 in 2015 (across 17 states), and 120 between August and December of 2014 (across 34 states).

The average patient age is four years, and more than 90% of patients are aged 18 years or younger, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a press briefing. AFM presents symptoms similar to poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, West Nile virus (WNV) and other viruses in the same family as WNV, and adenoviruses. The disease targets the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. Most people experience sudden weakness in their arms and/or legs and lose muscle tone and reflexes. Other symptoms may include facial droop/weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, and difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech. Rarer symptoms could include numbness or tingling, inability to pass urine, and respiratory failure. In rare cases, patients may experience other serious, fatal neurologic complications.

Despite the uptick in cases, the CDC said the disease remains very rare—affecting less than one in a million people each year.

Messonnier said the CDC will release weekly updates on AFM every Monday.

The cause of the disease—and what contributed to the spike since 2014—remains unknown. It may be attributed to viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. In some cases, even after extensive testing, the cause may not be determined. One documented fatality attributed to AFM occurred in 2017.

To minimize risk, the CDC recommends people protect themselves from poliovirus and WNV, both of which could cause AFM, by receiving the polio vaccination, using mosquito repellant, staying indoors at dusk and dawn, and removing stagnant water from the home.

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Source: CDC