Possible case of AFM in Douglas County

Alicia Farmer
October 17, 2018

About 90 percent of the cases are children who have suffered muscle weakness or paralysis.

The surge has baffled health officials, who on Tuesday announced a change in the way the agency is counting cases.

Five children in Maryland have contracted symptoms of a virus similar to polio this fall, according to the state health department. Despite extensive laboratory and other testing, CDC has been unable to find the cause for the majority of the cases.

"We know this can be frightening for parents", Messonnier said. "Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now", Messonnier said. This year is one of them.

Federal health officials have issued an unusual warning about a growing number of cases of a polio-like illness called acute flaccid myelitis, also known as AFM. It mostly afflicts children and young adults and can be caused by toxins in one's environment, genetic disorders or viruses such as poliovirus, West Nile virus or adenovirus. Maryland's first case was reported September 21.

The MDH says the case is now being reviewed, and did not provide information regarding where in the state this particular case was diagnosed, or whether or not the child is in the hospital. But mysteriously no other country has reported the emerging every-two-years pattern seen in the U.S., Messonnier said.

About 120 confirmed cases were reported in 2014.

The CDC received information on 33 confirmed cases of AFM across 16 states in 2017, 149 cases in 39 states. But Messonnier cautioned that it would be "premature" to be confident that this year will be the same as the earlier years.

"This is actually a pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier told reporters on Tuesday. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said.

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Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for AFM, though the CDC says neurologists may suggest options on a case-by-case basis. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states.

The cause of most of the AFM incidents is unknown, according to the CDC, as are the long-term effects.

Officials said they will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases.

The CDC is investigating the outbreak. CDC has tested every stool specimen from every AFM patient. No pathogen has been consistently detected in the patients' spinal fluid.

The CDC says disease prevention steps should be followed, including staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and using mosquito repellant.

In a few cases, it appears that the illnesses were linked to viruses, including enterovirus.

Now 3 years old, Hunter has slowly recovered.

It's possible that some milder cases haven't been reported by doctors to their state health department or the CDC, but Messonnier believes that number would be small.

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