CDC Says Cases of Polio-like Syndrome Still Rising

Federal health officials said on Monday, cases of a paralyzing condition of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) afflicting more children than any other age bracket is on the rise.

Out of 219 AFM cases reported, 80 have been confirmed in the latest count bringing the total to 127 so far for this year.

25 states in the US report their cases of AFM to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What is AFM?  According to NBC Today’s interview with Dr. John Torres, NBC Medical Correspondent, “A child may get sick, then recover then suddenly be sick again but not be able to move an arm or a leg, they get paralyzed. But we need to put it in perspective. As there are millions of children in our country, experts say it’s one in a million chance your child may develop AFM. It’s very rare but if your child gets it it’s very bad.”

The CDC reports that there has been a spike in outbreaks every two years.  In 2014 there were 120 cases confirmed, in 2016, 149 and so far 127 cases this year. There seem to be no answers as to why only 20 – 30 cases were reported in 2015 and 2017.

Nor can the CDC say what is clearly causing these polio-like conditions. Some patients started out with a common cold virus named D68 or EV-D68.  However, EV-DV8 has not always tested positive in all patients.

Though CDC maintains that the case for EV-DV8 is not so certain, outside researchers and physicians treating AFM in their patients are confident that viruses including EV-DV8 are the cause.

“CDC has tested many different specimens from AFM patients for a wide range of pathogens   (germs) that can cause AFM,” according to the agency’s website. “To date, no pathogen has been consistently detected in the patientsspinal fluid; a pathogen detected in the spinal fluid would be good evidence to indicate the cause of AFM since this condition affects the spinal cord.”

Some researchers believe spinal fluid testing isn’t enough to determine if a respiratory virus is causing the muscle weakness and paralysis of AFM. Rather, they say, blood and stool samples should be taken along with respiratory swabs.

However, the CDC and researchers do agree that immediate testing is necessary when a patient exhibits AFM symptoms and doctors and ER personnel should be knowledgeable of the symptoms.