Mysterious Polio-Like Illness Baffles Medical Experts While Frightening Parents

An electron micrograph of a thin section of EV-D68 a rare enterovirus.									Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Yiting Zhang  CDC

An electron micrograph of a thin section of EV-D68 a rare enterovirus. Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Yiting Zhang CDC

At last check, two kids in Western Washington are confirmed to have acute flaccid myelitis.

A rare but scary complication from a virus has left more than 60 children with a polio-like paralysis. He says he has had very good outcomes in 14 of the 15 patients; the one girl who did not regain full function had "a suboptimal result, but [her parents are] happy she got something back". There is no evidence of infection with the mosquito-borne West Nile virus either, she says, although she still encourages parents to send their children out with bug repellent. More than 60 suspected cases remain under investigation.

This year, the third outbreak of AFM is still underway.

A rare disease that peaked this autumn and paralyzes its victims - mainly children - in ways similar to polio has put health authorities on alert across the United States.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of 127 patients with symptoms of the disease this year.

Still, because this is a "pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier said health officials want to raise awareness about the symptoms to make sure parents seek medical care immediately if their children show a sudden onset of weakness or loss of muscle tone in their arms and legs.

"Nobody really knows treatment protocols, they don't know prognosis, and they can't really give parents an answer as to where this is coming from", she said.

Also, "we don't fully understand the long-term consequences of AFM", she said.

Patients are sometimes misdiagnosed with Transverse Myelitis or Guillain-Barre Syndrome and later diagnosed with AFM when they don't respond to standard treatments.

Milder cases of the disease might not be reported; however, Dr. Messonnier explained that the CDC is likely receiving information pertaining to the majority of cases.

Here's a six-question Q&A, with answers from CDC, that might answer some of your questions. Mainly acute flaccid myelitis was on the West coast of the United States, in the States of OR and Washington.

Like polio, acute flaccid myelitis affects the gray matter of the spinal cord, often causing lifelong paralysis of the muscles.

"It's very frustrating", said Prakash, who's new to Orlando but has diagnosed the condition in his previous job in St. Louis. Some children with AFM recover full motion and strength-usually within a few months-whereas in others the nerve damage seems permanent, she says.

Q. What are the symptoms? "It should only be (a concern) if the child has weakness of the arms and legs". Some people with AFM may be unable to pass urine. This can require urgent ventilator support (breathing machine). The 2014 outbreak of AFM coincided with a surge of another virus that caused severe respiratory problems, called EV-D68, However, the CDC could not establish a causal link between AFM and the virus.

Q. What causes the condition?

Q. What can be done to prevent it?

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.

Q. How is the condition diagnosed? To date, none of the pathogens have been consistently detected in any of the patients' spinal fluid, which would provide a strong indication of the cause of the condition because acute flaccid myelitis affects the spinal cord. It is important that the tests are done as soon as possible after the patient develops symptoms.

Again, doctors say AFM is rare, so folks should not be anxious.

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