Mystery Illness Causing Paralysis in Children Baffles Doctors

Mystery Illness Causing Paralysis in Children Baffles Doctors

Douglas County says it is still waiting on tests to confirm if the young child has AFM, and that could take up to three weeks.

Another 65 cases are being investigated.

The rare disease causes symptoms similar to polio and affects the spinal cord. Additional symptoms include facial drooping or weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech.

AFM cases tend to start in August, peak in October and taper off by December, according to the CDC.

There have been 127 cases reported in 22 states so far this year, with 62 confirmed as acute flaccid myelitis, said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, head of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Authorities say they are still awaiting confirmed lab results from the CDC.

Generally, most children with AFM see subtle improvements over time, but "most have long-term weakness", she said. The CDC has yet to figure out a common link between all the cases that have been reported, although they did note that several of them seem to have been linked to infections by other viruses, enterovirus D68.

Another wave hit in 2016, with 149 patients affected in 39 states.

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"Most kids to experience some recovery and some kids have a full recovery", Williams said. "We know that some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly and some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care", Messonnier said.

That's up from 22 people who were said to have it in 2015.

"Many people will get the infection and very few will get the neurologic disease" that leads to paralysis, Messacar says. The CDC estimatesfewer than 1 in a million Americans will get the disease. There was one confirmed death previous year, the CDC said on Tuesday.

Yet, more than four years after health officials first recorded the most recent uptick in cases, much about the national outbreak remains a mystery. "As we work to better understand what is causing AFM, parents can help protect their children from serious diseases by following prevention steps like washing our hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites".

"The fact that there is not a documented cause at this moment is an alarming piece of it", said Berbari.

"What parents have to know is if your child suddenly has a weak arm or leg, is not speaking properly, has a stiff neck or a wobbly neck - call the doctor immediately", pediatrician Dr. Laura Popper said.

Verma, of Children's Healthcare, said unfortunately there is no cure for acute flaccid myelitis, but he said there are ways to manage the symptoms, and he added that rehabilitation can improve function and quality of life.

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