Wednesday, 20 February, 2019


CDC expresses concern over mysterious surge in polio-like paralysis cases

Patty Aguilar | 17 October, 2018, 17:59

There are now five possible cases of a polio-like illness in Maryland, health officials confirm.

At least 62 cases have been confirmed in 22 states this year, and at least 65 additional illnesses in those states are being investigated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials urge parents to be vigilant, as there's a lot unknown about the syndrome and what causes it. From August 2014 to September 2018, 386 cases have been confirmed.

The average age of children is about 4, she said, and 90 percent of cases the CDC has been studying since 2014 have involved children 18 or younger.

"We understand that people, particularly parents, are concerned", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director for the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a teleconference call with reporters.

20, the CDC had confirmed 38 cases in 16 states, which aren't required to report AFM cases to the CDC.

More than 120 confirmed or possible cases are under investigation nationwide, according to the CDC.

In addition to viruses, potential causes may include environmental toxins and genetic disorders, according to the CDC, and it "can be hard to diagnose because it shares numerous same symptoms as other neurologic diseases". Several cases have been linked to enteroviruses or other germs, but officials have not been able to find a cause for the majority of these cases.

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) affects the gray matter in the spinal cord, causing sudden muscle weakness and a loss of reflexes. Other symptoms may include trouble moving the eyes, drooping eyelids or facial droop and weakness. But she stressed that despite the increase in cases, the illness is still very rare, occurring in fewer than 1 in a million people in the USA each year. "Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now". In 2017, one person died of AFM. The public health agency also does not fully understand long-term consequences or why some patients recover quickly while others continue to experience weakness. "So I think that should be reassuring to people", Dominguez said. So far, the number of cases in 2018 is similar to the number reported in 2014 and 2016, Messonnier said.

The agency knows that poliovirus is not the cause of these cases because the CDC has tested every single stool specimen from patients and none have tested positive for poliovirus.

In some individuals, health officials have determined that the condition was from infection with a type of virus that causes severe respiratory illness.

CDC is not releasing a list of the 22 states with confirmed and suspected cases because of privacy issues.

Many local cases have been treated at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

But Messonnier said that, in general, parents can help protect their children from diseases by washing their hands, making sure their children are up to date with vaccinations and applying insect repellent to protect against mosquito bites, which can spread viruses.

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