Case Of Polio-Like Illness Acute Flaccid Myelitis Confirmed In Mass.

Grant Boone
October 17, 2018

The MDH says the case is now being reviewed, and did not provide information regarding where in the state this particular case was diagnosed, or whether or not the child is in the hospital.

AFM is an illness that affects the nervous system, specifically the area of spinal cord called gray matter. Symptoms can also include facial droop and weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids or difficulty swallowing and slurred speech.

Dozens of children across the United States have developed a rare polio-like illness, but the reason for this spike in cases remains a mystery, according to health officials.

Across the US there were 38 confirmed cases in 16 states this year through September 30, according to the CDC. And though enteroviruses have been detected in some paralysis cases, it hasn't been found in others, CDC officials say.

Health officials said five kids in Maryland are believed to have contracted a virus this fall that has symptoms similar to polio. There have been cases each year since, but the numbers have been higher on alternate years. Still, if a child experiences sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in their arms or legs, parents should seek medical care right away, she said.

Among the concerns the CDC has are that the agency does not know the cause of AFM, why there has been an increase in cases since 2014, or the long-term effects of the illness.

One child has died of the condition, called acute flaccid myelitis, or 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.

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The agency said it is very concerned about it. The CDC doesn't know what caused the spikes.

At least 65 more cases are under investigation, said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

States are reporting their cases to the CDC, Messonnier said.

"We know that some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly and some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care", Messonnier said, noting how most have a "sudden onset of weakness".

Parents can best protect their children from serious diseases by taking prevention steps, like washing their hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines, and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites, she said.

The CDC received information on 33 confirmed cases of AFM across 16 states in 2017, 149 cases in 39 states In 2016, 22 across 17 states in 2015 and 120 across 34 states in 2014.

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