AFM, a mysterious polio-like illness, 'very frustrating' to diagnose

Five kids in Maryland may have a polio-like disease, as CDC investigates

An analysis found the average age of the patients in confirmed cases over the past five years is 4 years old, and 90 percent occur in children 18 and younger.

"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. In the most severe cases, AFM can cause trouble breathing and may require ventilator support. The disease appears to peak between August and October and spikes on alternate years, but diagnosis has been on the rise since 2014 and scientists have no idea why.

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a syndrome characterized by rapid onset of flaccid weakness in one or more limbs.

Gregory said, "It is a little bit concerning any time you're talking about illnesses that primarily seem to affect children". Long-term effects of the disease aren't yet known. A doctor can examine a patient's nervous system and the places on the body where he or she has weakness, poor muscle tone, and decreased reflexes. The CDC said it doesn't know how long symptoms of the disease will last for patients.

To give parents, healthcare workers, and public health officials a look at what to expect, she said the CDC will report suspected cases this year, as well as confirmed ones. In 2017 were recorded 21 cases of the disease.

Officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health say that a case from the summer has now been classified as AFM.

"We don't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or the reasons why they may be at higher risk", she said.

Some patients who contracted AFM quickly recover, while others end up with paralyzed arms and legs.

Since then, there have been more than 350 confirmed cases of the sickness.

Cases have been reported in 22 states, including some in our area.

"CDC has tested every stool specimen from the AFM patients, and none of the specimens have tested positive for the poliovirus", Ms Messonnier said.

The condition remains very rare.

Messonnier stressed that while she understands how frightening this situation is for parents, they should remember that the infections are, in fact, rare.

Parents should seek immediate medical care for kids exhibiting AFM symptoms, Messonnier said at the press conference, according to STAT.

While the cause of AFM is not clear, experts say it can occur as a result of a variety of viral illnesses including the polio virus, enteroviruses, West Nile virus, and adenoviruses.

Kelsey Gregory, a nurse practitioner with Premier Family Care in Harrison, said, "They are terming it as a polio-like virus, but none of the confirmed cases have been caused by the actual polio virus". Here's what puzzles health officials about AFM: The cause is still unknown.

Doctors say the most serious cases can lead to respiratory failure. There was one confirmed death past year, the CDC said on Tuesday. "Our medical team has been reviewing vaccine records when available during this year's investigation and do not see a correlation", said CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund.

Earlier this month, 6 cases were reported in Minnesota, 3 in North Texas, and one in Chicago. No pathogen has been consistently detected in the patients' spinal fluid.

People can protect themselves from contracting AFM using methods similar to preventing getting the flu, Ellerin said.

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