Rare mysterious illness ASM partially paralyzes children, and it's spreading — CDC

Phillip Cunningham
October 20, 2018

Of the 62 cases diagnosed this year, it known that 24 have been in three states: 10 in IL, eight in Texas and six in Minnesota.

An analysis found the average age of the patients in confirmed cases over the past five years is 4 years old, and 90 percent occur in children 18 and younger. The virus triggered a paralyzing illness in the mice that "looked an very bad lot like what we saw in children", says Kenneth Tyler, chairman of the school's Department of Neurology.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Tuesday that so far, no common cause linking these illnesses has been found, NPR reported. "However this year, two years ago, four years ago - so 2014 and 2016 - we definitely saw, along with the rest of the country, clusters of cases where we had multiple patients in the span of a couple of months". "And I'm frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we have not been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness". The CDC does not believe that the growing awareness of the rare disease is contributing to the increase in cases. Long-term effects of the disease aren't yet known. But Messonnier cautioned that it would be "premature" to conclude that this year will be the same as the earlier years. West Nile is one; others in the same family are also possible.

Researchers are looking into a number of possible causes from viruses to genetic disorders to environmental toxins. Maryland's first case was reported September 21. She said based on the size of a Facebook group for AFM parents, the numbers are likely higher than what's been confirmed nationally.

'If [AFM affects gray matter] lower in the spinal cord [paralysis will] be more in the legs and if it's higher up, it'll be more in the arms, ' Dr Fernando Acosta, a pediatric neurologist at Cook Children's Medical Center, in Fort Worth, Texas, told Daily Mail Online in an interview on Monday. In many other cases, Williams said, the cause of AFM is unknown. The CDC said it doesn't know how long symptoms of the disease will last for patients. However, they can cause more serious neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis.

A press officer for the CDC told Daily Mail Online that the agency would not be naming the six additional states where cases have been confirmed due to "privacy issues".


Officials said they will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases. "There are a few viruses that can do this", 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. AFM remains extremely rare, even with the recent increase. No pathogen has been consistently detected in the patients' spinal fluid.

She encouraged parents to wash their children's hands, use insect repellents and update vaccinations. As this virus invades spinal cord of human body, the symptoms showing AFM are seen, Woods said.

Some patients who contracted AFM quickly recover, while others end up with paralyzed arms and legs.

But, if their child is diagnosed, parents should prepare for extensive physical therapy - therapy that isn't always covered by insurance, he said. More than 60 suspected cases remain under investigation.

The states Daily Mail Online is now aware of with confirmed cases includes: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Washington.

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