Published: Thu, October 18, 2018
Health Care | By Belinda Paul

CDC expresses concern over mysterious surge in polio-like paralysis cases

CDC expresses concern over mysterious surge in polio-like paralysis cases

One case of the rare, polio-like disease acute flaccid myelitis has been confirmed in Oklahoma, officials say.

There have been no confirmed cases of AFM in Maine this year, according to Emily Spencer, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine CDC.

And for now, it's hard to say if 2018 will equal or surpass spikes seen in 2014 and 2016, Messonnier said, adding that state and federal health officials haven't finished the whole diagnostic algorithm for numerous cases reported over the past several weeks.

AFM is a condition in which the gray matter of the spinal cord becomes damaged, leading to muscle weakness and paralysis in one or multiple limbs.

According to the CDC, the most severe cases of AFM can lead to respiratory failure and even death.

The cases in 2014 and 2016 were partly attributed to particular strains of respiratory germs called enteroviruses, which spread the most in the summer and fall. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states.

"This remains a rare syndrome, but the similarities to poliomyelitis, polio-like illness, are concerning and bear close monitoring", Dr. Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, told ABC News in an interview.

The CDC is not releasing a list of the 22 states with confirmed and suspected cases because of privacy issues. Some patients will also experience facial weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids or slurred speech.

The CDC is investigating 127 reported cases, including the ones that have been confirmed.

In addition to viruses, potential causes may include environmental toxins and genetic disorders, according to the CDC, and it "can be hard to diagnose because it shares numerous same symptoms as other neurologic diseases".

The CDC said the condition isn't new, "but the increase in cases we saw starting in 2014 is new".

The disorder has been diagnosed in unvaccinated children and also in children who have received some of their recommended vaccinations, she said. Doctors at Children's have not seen an AFM patient needing a ventilator this year, but have treated such cases in the past, Benson said.

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

"Families really sticking with it are seeing slow but steady recovery", he said.

People can protect themselves from contracting AFM using methods similar to preventing getting the flu, Ellerin said. But some state health departments have been making public their reported cases.

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