CDC expresses concern over mysterious surge in polio-like paralysis cases

A rare condition causing weakness in the arms or legs - and sometimes paralysis - has been confirmed in 62 children so far this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. Officials would not say what states they lived in, but cases have been reported in New York, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, and Washington. Most of the cases have occurred in children.

The illness affects the patient's spinal cord.

The Department of Public Health has confirmed the second MA case this year of a rare but potentially devastating illness that strikes mostly children and causes muscle weakness or paralysis.

Standardized surveillance was established in 2015 to monitor this illness and attempt to estimate the baseline incidence.

About 120 confirmed cases were reported in 2014.

Unlike polio, there is no vaccine for AFM.

- The number of cases of a rare paralyzing illness in children in the United States has jumped, according to federal officials.

The disease has been on the rise in the USA since 2014, but it remains rare.

"I am frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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And for now, it's hard to say if 2018 will equal or surpass spikes seen in 2014 and 2016, Messonnier said, adding that state and federal health officials haven't finished the whole diagnostic algorithm for numerous cases reported over the past several weeks.

The CDC referred calls to individual state health departments. One child died from AFM in 2017.

Health experts say acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is a polio-like syndrome that affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord.

While AFM is not unique to the US, Messonnier said, "no one else has seen seasonal clustering every other year".

Some victims have been infected with viruses, but researchers have been unable to identify a single virus responsible for all cases.

The CDC has not traced the virus to a specific germ, but the agency said it has a variety of causes including viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders. None have tested positive for poliovirus. "Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now". "We recommend seeking medical care right away if you or your child develops sudden weakness of the arms and legs", she said.

Asked about the discrepancy between the CDC's report of 22 states versus CNN's report of 30 states with cases, Messonnier said, "the 22 states that we're reporting are the states that have confirmed cases".

Once diagnosed, some patients have recovered quickly, but some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care, Messonnier said.

The CDC said it doesn't know how long symptoms of the disease will last for patients.

  • Ismael Montgomery