Arizona health officials confirm 2 cases of rare illness paralyzing kids

Phillip Cunningham
October 18, 2018

Health officials call the condition acute flaccid myelitis.

Acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is rare, but the Centers for Disease Control said it has become more common recently.

Officials began tracking the disease in 2014 when they received reports of 120 cases nationwide.

In total, CNN found 47 confirmed cases and 49 more that were suspected or being investigated, for a total of 96. Symptoms include muscle weakness, droopy eyelids, problems swallowing, and slurred speech.

According to yesterday's warning issued by the CDC, the disease could be linked to environmental toxins, genetic disorders or other viruses such as West Nile. Fewer than one in a million get the disease. Working with local and state health departments and hospitals, the CDC has been able to confirm a number of these cases faster, she said.

Messonnier said the CDC has definitively ruled out polio - which causes a similar set of symptoms - as the cause.

While AFM is not unique to the US, Messonnier said, "no one else has seen seasonal clustering every other year". But the data reported Tuesday represents "a substantially larger number than in previous months this year", Messonnier said. Although the cause remains a mystery in the majority of cases, the 2014 jump coincided with "a national outbreak of severe respiratory illness among people caused by enterovirus D68", though it wasn't found in all patients, according to the CDC. "We want to encourage parents to seek medical care right away if you or your child develops symptoms of AFM, such as sudden weakness and loss of muscle tone in your arms or legs", Messonnier told Reuters.

None of the US patients tested positive for polio, a crippling and often deadly disease which was eliminated in this country thanks to the polio vaccine.

AFM can cause weakness and pain in the arms and legs. Of these, 62 cases have been confirmed in 22 states. Maryland's first case was reported September 21. She said the average age of AFM patients is 4. It's acting very much like a post-viral neurological syndrome, but we can't say for sure that it is because we don't have any definitive isolation.

The CDC says there are preventive measures people can take to reduce the risk of infections that could lead to AFM.

Parents have reported that the limbs of affected children appear lifeless.

Parents can best protect their children from serious diseases by taking prevention steps, such as washing their hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites.

The following year, there were 22 confirmed cases in 17 states, and 2016 saw 149 cases in 39 jurisdictions, including D.C. In 2017 there were 33 confirmed cases in 16 states. "These kids have a sudden onset of weakness and they are generally seeking medical care and being evaluated by neurologists, infectious disease doctors and their pediatricians and coming to public awareness".

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