Published: Fri, October 19, 2018
Medical | By

Cases of mysterious paralyzing illness reported in 22 states

Cases of mysterious paralyzing illness reported in 22 states

The Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a warning to parents on Wednesday, urging them to recognize the symptoms of AFM.

There have been 386 confirmed cases of AFM since 2014.

Gregory said, "It is a little bit concerning any time you're talking about illnesses that primarily seem to affect children". But that bug - enterovirus D68 - could not be definitively linked to the illnesses. He has tested a number of possible treatments on his mice but has not yet found any that make a significant difference in the course of their AFM-like illness.

Officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health say that a case from the summer has now been classified as AFM.

Gregory said, "Effective hand-washing, just the typical illness prevention".

A Tennessee mother says her son is the latest victim of a mysterious polio-like disease that is concerning parents across the country.

"We are seeing more cases of this in the USA than we are seeing in polio in the whole world", University of Colorado neurologist Kenneth Tyler tells Science. In 2015, the CDC identified 22 patients who exhibited symptoms of AFM. "We recommend seeking medical care right away if you or your child develop sudden weakness of the arms or legs".

This year, more than half of all U.S. states have had confirmed or possible cases of acute flaccid myelitis. Ninety percent of the cases have been in children, she says.

"Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare and potentially life-threatening disease that is affecting residents across the state", Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said.

The first cases of AFM coincided with an unusually severe outbreak of a common virus that affects the lungs or gut.


Danielle Finkle, a mother from IL who was interviewed, said about her son: "He came to me and he's supporting his left arm with his right arm, and he says, 'Mommy my arm's broke'".

Rathore, the Jacksonville specialist, said he was not shocked at seeing a case this year. That suggests to him the disease can completely wipe out the nerves. Seruya has operated on 15 children whose AFM-induced paralysis lasted at least three months. But treatments for the infection itself remain elusive. None of the US patients tested positive for polio, a crippling and often deadly disease which was eliminated in this country thanks to the polio vaccine. AFM may be one of them.

AFM may be caused by other viruses, including enterovirus, environmental toxins and a condition in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys tissue that it mistakes for foreign material, Messonnier said: "This is a mystery so far, and we haven't solved it yet, so we have to be thinking broadly". Polio is a very similar virus-and there's a vaccine to protect against it. The Chinese have developed a vaccine against enterovirus A71, but it is not available in the USA, he adds. To confirm a case requires not only that a child have symptoms of limb weakness or paralysis, but a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan that shows specific damage in the spinal cord.

Although symptoms may appear similar to polio, AFM is not polio and it is not contagious.

"Poliovirus is not the cause of these AFM cases".

Gregory said, "There's been reports of less than one in a million cases".

There were outbreaks of around 100 cases, nationwide, between August and October in both 2014 and 2016.

That was certainly true in Sarah Pilarowski's family. While she can't predict how 2018 will turn out, Messonnier said that the number of cases so far this year seems to be in line with the previous two waves in 2014 and 2016.

"She couldn't hold herself up and everything".

What's the prognosis for someone diagnosed with AFM?

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