Outbreak of mysterious polio-like disease plagues residents in 22 states

Simon Moss
October 18, 2018

According to the Douglas County Health Department, a suspected case of AFM is being investigated in a young child. The illness has been compared to the polio and West Nile viruses.

The CDC would not release a list of the states reporting probable or confirmed cases.

There is now no cure for AFM, known cause in most cases, or clear explanation for why some people who contract the enterovirus experience symptoms and others do not.

According to the CDC, the number of patients with AFM symptoms increases each year in August and September. "We actually don't know what is causing this increase".

AFM may be caused by other viruses, including enterovirus, environmental toxins and a condition in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys tissue that it mistakes for foreign material, Messonnier said: "This is a mystery so far, and we haven't solved it yet, so we have to be thinking broadly". AFM can be diagnosed by examining a person's nervous system, taking an MRI scan and testing cerebral spinal fluid. AFM symptoms include sudden muscle weakness in the arms or legs, sometimes following a respiratory illness.

Other possible cases are still under investigation.

Parents have reported that the limbs of affected children appear lifeless.

Quinton Hill, 7, of Lakeville, Minn., lost movement in one arm last month due to a mysterious syndrome known as acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

MA has seen a total of 16 confirmed cases in children since 2014, plus one probable case in an adult.

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Why is AFM likened to polio?

Unfortunately, there's no specific treatment for AFM.

Although symptoms resemble polio, no evidence of poliovirus has been found in specimens from any case diagnosed so far, Messonnier said.

The CDC says this is still a rare condition that affects less than one in 1 million people per year. To date, no pathogen has been consistently detected in AFM patients.

The CDC is actively investigating and monitoring disease activity and recommends taking standard prevention measures such as hand-washing, protecting oneself from mosquito bites and staying up-to-date on vaccinations.

The Douglas County Health Department's Phil Rooney said, "This is not a diagnosis like flu or other diseases where you can do blood draw fluids".

Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist who has treated children with AFM at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, said AFM is "exquisitely rare".

The following year, there were 22 confirmed cases in 17 states, and 2016 saw 149 cases in 39 jurisdictions, including D.C. In 2017 there were 33 confirmed cases in 16 states. The state did not provide additional details.

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