Mysterious paralyzing condition continues to increase

More children are becoming suddenly paralyzed — and health officials still don't know why

More children are becoming suddenly paralyzed — and health officials still don't know why

Health officials call the condition acute flaccid myelitis.

Fortunately, the disease remains rare: This year, there have been 90 cases spread among 27 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The condition remains a mystery: no pathogen has been found consistently, though almost all patients have reported signs and symptoms consistent with viral illness in the weeks preceding limb weakness.

Cases of a mysterious polio-like illness continue to mount in the United States, and health officials are scrambling to figure out the cause.

Its symptoms are likened to those caused by polio, which was eradicated in the USA thanks to the polio vaccine. "So far, the curve from 2018 looks similar to 2016 and to 2014". Doctors have suspected the cause might be some kind of enterovirus, which in most people causes cold symptoms. In 2014, the first wave of the mystery disease coincided with an outbreak of a specific type of virus, an enterovirus called EV-D68, leading the CDC to study a possible connection between the two.

There's also a lack of clinical evidence: CDC officials have checked the spinal fluid of about three-quarters of the 90 patients, and found EV-68 in only one.

Among 38 patients who tested positive for EV/RV, specimens from 11 (29%) tested positive for EV-A71, 14 (37%) for EV-D68, and 13 (34%) for other viruses, primarily from nonsterile sites.

But there are questions about that, too.

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Another possibility is that the condition is being caused by an overreaction of the immune system to an infection.

Parents and even some scientists have criticized the agency for not solving the riddle.

Perhaps most frustrating for parents, there is no way to prevent it, and no targeted therapies or interventions. In years where more cases have been reported, peaks are seen in the late summer and fall. The CDC is investigating an additional 162 cases for potential AFM. Case counts were far lower in 2015 and 2017, and experts don't know why it seems to follow an every-other-year pattern.

"As a mom, I know what it's like to be scared for your child, and I understand parents want answers", she said. Another 149 were reported in 2016.

The illnesses have spiked in September each year there's been a wave and tailed off significantly by November.

According to a report published today in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), of the 80 confirmed cases in 2018, testing has been performed on a total of 125 clinical specimens from 71 (89%) patients, including 21 cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), 59 upper respiratory, and 45 stool/rectal swab specimens.

It can take 1 to 3 weeks before the CDC confirms if a child's paralysis is AFM.

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