62 cases of AFM confirmed across 22 states: CDC

Grant Boone
October 17, 2018

"Most AFM cases occur in the late summer and fall", which she referred to as "seasonal clustering".

A polio-like illness that can cause paralysis in children is now here in the Carolinas.

"For some previous cases, we have identified one pathogen or another, but we have no unifying diagnosis", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Despite extensive laboratory and other testing, CDC has been unable to find the cause for the majority of the cases.

Between August 2014 and September 2018, 362 cases were confirmed by the CDC.

That's when we spoke with the families of 4-year-old Camdyn Carr, who's now fighting the disease, and 7-year-old Sebastian Bottomley, who previously fought AFM.

There is no specific treatment for the disorder, and long-term outcomes are unknown.

Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system. Neurological conditions like it have a variety of causes, such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders.

In some individuals, health officials have determined that the condition was from infection with a type of virus that causes severe respiratory illness.

It was not immediately known if some of the reported cases across the country are in Virginia or the District.

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Additional symptoms can include facial drooping or weakness, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech.

Some patients recover quickly, while others experience paralysis and require ongoing care.

The CDC is actively investigating the cases and working with healthcare providers as well as state and local health departments to spread the word about AFM. Numbers dropped drastically in 2015 and 2017 - to 22 and 33, respectively - but were back up again in 2016 at 149.

More broadly, she noted, "there is a lot we don't know about AFM". "And certainly after three cycles of this, when we've looked through all the normal agents, we're looking beyond that to see if there are things beyond normal infectious diseases that could cause this", said Messonnier.

The disease has been on the rise in the US since 2014, but it remains rare.

But the agency doesn't know who may be at higher risk nor why they may be at higher risk.

The CDC is investigating the cases and monitoring the disease, and encourages people to prevent the disease by staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and protecting against mosquito bites.

Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist who has treated children with AFM at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, said AFM is "exquisitely rare". "So we're very lucky that he had (physical therapy) through early intervention". Some children paralyzed by AFM have eventually regained their ability to walk, but need time. It's a rare disease, but the CDC thought that they might glean more about the nature of the outbreak, as well as clues about how to contain it, by releasing a report to the public.

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