CDC: 'Mystery illness' leaving dozens of children paralyzed


The cases are among dozens of possible instances of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating across the country. In 2018, the federal health watchdog confirmed 62 instances of the disease - which causes limb weakness and can paralyse sufferers.

"What we have been told is that he's the best case scenario of a hard situation", she said.

"If we knew what causes it, we could treat it", said Dr. Mobeen Rathore, chief of infectious diseases at Wolfson Children's Hospital.

At a press briefing Tuesday, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said, "We want to encourage parents to seek medical care right away if you or your child develops symptoms of AFM, such as sudden weakness and loss of muscle tone in your arms or legs".

In some cases patients recover from the paralysis, but in others it continues.

"I am frustrated that despite all of our efforts we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", she said.
Enterovirus (EV) D68, a virus from the same family as polio, is the leading suspect, having been closely linked to the 2014 outbreak, Pardo-Villamizar said. The CDC's surveillance shows an increase in AFM cases beginning this August, as well. It is a rare, but serious condition - fewer than one in a million Americans will get AFM every year, the CDC estimates. But the data reported Tuesday represents "a substantially larger number than in previous months this year", Messonnier said.

Arizona health officials have confirmed two cases of a rare illness that has paralyzed children in more than 20 states. Maryland's first case was reported September 21.

The condition remains very rare. "We don't fully understand the long-term consequences of AFM", Ms Messonnier said.

Because the symptoms are similar, AFM is often confused with polio, a crippling and potentially fatal disease that is caused by a virus.

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The outlook for patients with AFM can vary from a quick recovery to ongoing paralysis, Messonnier said. However, none of the USA patients tested positive for polio, and, according to Dr. Messonnier, none of this year's cases have been linked to West Nile virus.

Lacking an established cause, health officials confirm cases through a review of brain scans and symptoms.

At this point, health officials are not sure what causes AFM but say that it can occur after a viral infection, West Nile Virus and other illnesses.

Those cases were partly attributed to certain strains of respiratory germs called enteroviruses, which spread the most during the summer and fall.

Sister Station WVLT is reporting that doctors diagnosed six-year-old Spencer Hill of Chattanooga with the sickness known as Acute Flaccid Myelitis.

"We don't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or the reasons why they may be at higher risk".

Doctors diagnosed Aamira with AFM.

There is no specific treatment for AFM, according to the CDC, although neurologists might recommend things like physical therapy to help treat muscle weakness on a case-by-case basis.

"CDC has tested every stool specimen from the AFM patients, and none of the specimens have tested positive for the poliovirus", Ms Messonnier said.