CDC Searches For Answers On Why Mysterious Polio-Like Disease Is Flaring Up In US Children

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is searching for answers on 127 suspected and confirmed cases of a polio-like disease leaving children across the U.S. paralyzed.

Sixty-two cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) have been confirmed in 22 states out of 127 reports of AFM. Those numbers put 2018 on track to have a record number of AFM cases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the CDC told NBC News.

“We have not been able to find the cause of the majority of AFM cases …” Messonnier said according to NBC News. “AFM is a rare condition. It’s also a serious condition. So we want to encourage parents to seek medical care right away if you or you child develop symptoms of AFM such as sudden weakness or paralysis of the arms and legs.”

Patients with AFM often need help from a ventilator to breathe, and they can be disabled for yearsAFM can also strike people older than 18, according to NBC News. Confirmed AFM cases peaked at 149 in 2016 after the illness first grabbed headlines with 120 confirmed cases in 2014, according to CDC data. The illness appears to spike every other year.

The CDC does not specify which states have how many cases. Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar called for the CDC to look into six cases of AFM in her state Oct. 10.

Orville Young, 4, of Minnesota lost mobility in his right arm after contracting accute flaccid myelitis in 2018. YouTube screenshot/CBS This Morning

Orville Young, 4, of Minnesota lost mobility in his right arm after contracting acute flaccid myelitis in 2018. YouTube screenshot/CBS

“This is alarming. 6 cases in MN since mid-September [and] 362 cases across the country since 2014. I’ve called on the CDC to conduct an expedited investigation and respond to the recent cases of AFM,” Klobuchar wrote on Twitter Oct. 10.

To confirm a patient has AFM, doctors have to run an MRI scan to find evidence of damage to the spinal cord. So far, no case of AFM has tested positive for polio, which has been eradicated in the U.S. (RELATED: Two Major Companies Are Bringing Big Changes To How You Get Health Care)

AFM can take root after a viral infection like enterovirus and West Nile Virus, Messonnier told NBC News.

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