More Reports of Children Being Paralyzed by Mysterious Disease


The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of 127 patients under investigation for acute flaccid myelitis this year. Health officials are alarmed and frustrated, because a specific cause hasn't been identified.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a warning to parents on Wednesday, urging them to recognize the symptoms of AFM.

According to the director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Nancy Messonnier, 90 percent of AFM cases since 2014 have involved people 18 years and younger.

The CDC began tracking the illness in 2014 and has seen a spike in reports in August and September every 2 years, according to data on its website.

The spikes were significantly higher in 2014, 2016 and 2018-to-date than in 2015 or 2017.

Despite extensive laboratory and other testing, CDC has not been able to find the cause for the majority of the cases.

In a few cases, it appears that the illnesses were linked to viruses, including enterovirus.

The peculiar illness causes weakness in the limbs, loss of muscle tone, and may also result in neck pain, headache, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and in the worst of cases, respiratory failure.

The cases this year seem to be spread across much of the country, as were the earlier two waves.

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The symptoms are very similar to polio, or poliomyelitis, an infectious disease caused by a virus.

MA has seen a total of 16 confirmed cases in children since 2014, plus one probable case in an adult. Enterovirus was detected in several individual cases for which a cause was determined, while none of these patients has had west nile virus.

The CDC says there are preventative measures people can take to reduce the risk of infections that could lead to AFM.

The Douglas County Health Department's Phil Rooney said, "This is not a diagnosis like flu or other diseases where you can do blood draw fluids".

The long-term effects are not known, and outcomes have been different for patients, with some recovering quickly and others having lasting paralysis and requiring ongoing care.

"As a parent myself I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", Messonnier said.

The CDC is actively investigating and monitoring disease activity and recommends taking standard prevention measures such as hand-washing, protecting oneself from mosquito bites and staying up-to-date on vaccinations. The CDC has stressed that the number of cases is rising.

Officials with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite Hospital told WVLT News that Hill was receiving treatment in an area of the hospital where patients diagnosed with AFM would be cared for.

But, if their child is diagnosed, parents should prepare for extensive physical therapy - therapy that isn't always covered by insurance, he said.