The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a mysterious polio-like disorder that is on the rise across the nation. It mainly affects children.
Acute flaccid myelitis affects a person's nervous system and can paralyze a child's arms and legs. Between 2014 and 2018, the CDC received reports of 386 cases. More than 60 cases reported this year have been confirmed by the CDC in 22 states. It is actively investigating AFM cases, and trying to unearth more information about the rare disease.
Brittany Fowler of the Maryland Department of Health told USA TODAY that there have been five possible cases of AFM in the state, all in children under 18. The Minnesota Department of Health announced six cases had been reported in children under 10 years old. The cause of most of the AFM cases is unknown. Some cases have been linked to poliovirus (polio) and West Nile virus, according to the CDC.
Symptoms include drooping face and eyelids, difficulty moving eyes and swallowing, and slurred speech. In severe cases, children might have trouble breathing and need a ventilator because of muscle weakness.
Even with extensive lab testing, AFM is difficult to diagnose, because it so similar to other conditions, including poliovirus, West Nile virus and adenoviruses, the CDC reports.
There is no specific treatment for AFM, and the long-term outcomes for AFM patients is unknown. To date, one child has died from AFM.
The average age of AFM patients is 4 years old and 90 percent of reported cases involve patients under age 18, said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. She called the disease mysterious and said she is she is "frustrated" that there still is so much health officials do not know about AFM.
The CDC is "actively investigating escalating" it's response of this "mystery illness" she said.
While cases have been on the rise since 2014, AFM still affects a small population — less than one in a million people in the United States annually.
The CDC recommends people follow normal disease prevention steps to avoid AFM, including staying current on vaccines, washing hands and avoiding mosquito bites.
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