Acute Flaccid Myelitis: A mystery disease, this time in the US

Grant Boone
October 28, 2018

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and state health leaders on Thursday called for mandatory national reporting of cases of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, the polio-like disorder that has stricken as many as seven Minnesota children this year.

A rare illness that can lead to paralysis or death, acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), is making headlines across the nation, with one of the newest cases confirmed last week by a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. The CDC has confirmed 62 cases in 22 states. It affects the nervous system, specifically the area of spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak.

Dr. Vogel also noted most of the reported cases in the far have been in the northern regions of the country while the CDC reports cases worldwide. "We continue to investigate to better understand the clinical picture of AFM cases, risk factors and possible causes of the increase in cases".

The classic presentation is sudden or rapid onset of weakness of the arms, legs, or facial muscles. That is roughly 50 percent more than have already been confirmed. Other cases may also be related to viral infection, but they don't have the same precise symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis, which include sudden onset and specific damage to the spinal cord.What's clear to the doctors who have treated numerous cases is that some virus is responsible, and that most cases are likely due to EV-D68."I think we are seeing the emergence of a new polio-like paralytic disease".

The CDC additionally stated the cause for most cases is still unknown, but could be caused by other viruses or environmental toxins.

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Whether the paralysis is ongoing depends on the patient, the CDC stated, because some have recovered quickly while others required continued care.

"What happens is that with time you build immunity", said Christenson.

The CDC has a hunch that AFM can be caused by other viruses like enterovirus or west nile virus.

Bhargava says parents should aware of the symptoms, but not overly concerned.

Rohde said that doctors have been treating the signs or symptoms which appear to start out like a respiratory illness, with cough, runny nose and fever. Parents can also help protect their children by encouraging hand washing, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites.

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