Health Care

Polio Like Illness Continues to Spread

Polio Like Illness Continues to Spread”

CDC stresses that AFM still remains a very rare condition, with an occurrence rate of less than one among a million people.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported a spike in AFM, with more than 60 cases confirmed in 22 U.S. states in the last several weeks. Today the CDC says it is investigating 155 cases of a polio like illness that affects kids.

"At this moment, we don't know if it's a virus that is coming and producing direct damage of the gray matter in the spinal cord, or if a virus is triggering immunological responses that produce a secondary damage in the spinal cord", Carlos Pardo-Villamizar, a neurological disease expert at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who recently authored a paper on AFM, told Kaiser Health News. "AFM can be hard to diagnose because it shares numerous same symptoms as other neurologic diseases".

There have been two confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, in MA this year.

One reason, Messonnier said, may be that we still don't have a big enough group to study.

"We have not been able to find the cause of the majority of AFM cases", the CDC's Dr. Nancy Messonnier told reporters on Thursday. It causes hand, foot and mouth disease. Some with AFM will feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes.

"There are some abnormal changes in the spine that have been identified with other patients and you would need that evidence to actually have a confirmed case", Dr. Taylor said.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health don't know when the cases were originally reported. Most of the confirmed cases nationally involve children.

The CDC received information on 33 confirmed cases of AFM in 2017, 149 cases in 2016, 22 cases in 2015, and 120 cases in the latter part of 2014.

Messonnier said other viruses besides EV-D68 have been found in patients with AFM.

The CDC is open to the possibility that it's not a virus that is causing the condition, but can not find any other plausible cause, either. "That's something that we're still really learning about", Jones said.

The CDC said that it's working with state and local health departments to investigate the possible cases. However, they want to stress how rare this condition is. They include West Nile virus, Jamestown Canyon virus, Lacrosse virus, Powassan virus, St. Louis encephalitis and Eastern equine encephalitis. The CDC recommends staying up to date with vaccinations and protecting against mosquito bites.

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