Acute flaccid myelitis: Confirmed cases rise to 72 in US

Cleveland Clinic doctor says ‘polio-like’ illness cases continue to surface

Cleveland Clinic doctor says ‘polio-like’ illness cases continue to surface

Since 2014, cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a polio-like illness that affects mostly children, have spiked around this time of year.

These 72 confirmed cases are among the total of 191 reports that CDC received of patients under investigation (PUIs). However, the CDC has declined to name the states with confirmed or suspected cases at this point.

"It is really a one out of a million when you look at how often this is happening, it's very very rare". The cause of most AFM cases is not known.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who directs the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, described AFM as a "pretty dramatic disease".

But, she emphasized, AFM is still extremely rare. It is also a serious condition.

But the specific cause for AFM has been a mystery. "We are, you know, continuing to strengthen our efforts, working in partnership with state and territorial health departments, and academic experts to try to figure this out", Dr. Robert Redfield told "CBS This Morning" co-host John Dickerson in his first TV interview as CDC director. However, a cause for AFM can not always be identified. The muscle weakness can progress to paralysis.

Dr Fernando Acosta, a pediatric neurologist in Fort Worth, Texas, said that AFM can present differently across patients depending on the location of the body it affects. "We had one case of that and that was just terrible". More than 90 percent of these cases have been in children under the age of 18.

There have been no recorded deaths in 2018 from the disease, and since 2014, the CDC knows of only one death in 2017, according to Messonnier.

"I do think that this is a new occurrence in the United States, the AFM".

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In most cases, however, doctors will recommend physical or occupational therapy to help with muscle weakness.

"The treatment is supportive". In rare cases, a patient may have difficulty breathing due to muscle weakness and require urgent ventilator support. If they can not feed themselves, then they may be fed either through the nose or through the mouth with a tube down directly into the stomach...

There seems to be an every-other-year pattern with AFM.

From August 2014 through October 2018, CDC has received information on a total of 396 confirmed cases of AFM across the USA; most of the cases have occurred in children.

AFM is now being diagnosed via MRI. Those with spinal cord damage caused directly by the virus warrant different treatments and don't respond as well. But it's hard to know for sure when the cases are going to taper off.

But the CDC does not believe that they can definitively say EV-D68 is the source of AFM. We don't know who might be at a higher risk of developing AFM, or the reasons why they would be at a higher risk.

To improve research into AFM, Greenberg has called for mandatory reporting of the condition and centralized testing for infectious agents so researchers can better understand the full scope of the outbreak. The good news is that it doesn't appear to be transmissible from human to human.

Esper also pointed out that although AFM is commonly referred to as a polio-like illness, it is not polio - it just has similar symptoms. There are a variety of possible causes of AFM, such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

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