U.S. doctors baffled as rare spinal disease spreads across 22 states

U.S. doctors baffled as rare spinal disease spreads across 22 states

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expressed frustration and concern Tuesday about a puzzling surge in cases of polio-like paralysis, mostly in children, being reported across the country this year.

20, the CDC had confirmed 38 cases in 16 states, which aren't required to report AFM cases to the CDC. More than 90 percent of the confirmed cases have been in children 18 and younger, with the average age being 4 years old. Officials say this is not considered a public health threat, so they will not release which part of the state the case was confirmed in, or any other details.

A polio-like illness that can cause paralysis in children is now here in the Carolinas.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier with the CDC said, "We are looking at anything that might be causing the AFM because our earlier investigations haven't revealed the cause".

In some cases patients recover from the paralysis, but in others it continues. Another kind of virus is suspected, but it's been found in only some of the cases.

Since 2014 there have been almost 400 confirmed cases of AFM across the United States.

The spikes were significantly higher in 2014, 2016 and 2018-to-date than in 2015 or 2017.

"Overall, the rate of AFM over the years that it has been diagnosed which is since 2014 is less than one in a million."
But the data reported Tuesday represents "a substantially larger number than in previous months this year", Messonnier said.

The long-term effects of the disease are also unknown.

The disease affects the spinal cord and can cause weakness and pain in the arms and legs. They say they are investigating several potential causes, including environmental toxins.

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

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Maryland health officials said their first case was reported to them September 21.

The condition remains very rare.

While AFM is not unique to the US, Messonnier said, "no one else has seen seasonal clustering every other year". "Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause of these AFM cases".

Because the symptoms are similar, AFM is often confused with polio, a crippling and potentially fatal disease that is caused by a virus.

Although some AFM patients tested positive for an enterovirus, indicating a possible link, not all had the virus.

Lacking an established cause, health officials have confirmed cases through a review of brain scans and symptoms.

"Many times it can start with what looks like a respiratory illness, a little bit of a fever", Narula said.

Many local cases have been treated at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"This is a pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier said.

Doctors diagnosed Aamira with AFM. None of the USA patients tested positive for polio, a crippling and often deadly disease which was eliminated in this country thanks to the polio vaccine.

According to the CDC, scientists have not yet been able to determine who is most at risk for developing AFM.

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