Polio-like illness causing paralysis in children reaches the Carolinas

The CDC stressed that none of the children who developed these symptoms had the polio virus.

Last year, one child died of the disease.

Federal health officials are anxious about an increase in a mysterious and rare condition that mostly affects children and can paralyze arms and legs, with 127 confirmed or suspected cases reported as of Tuesday. The illness can lead to serious complications - including paralysis or respiratory failure - and requires immediate medical attention.

There are now 62 confirmed reports of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, an illness similar to polio, across 22 states in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 90 percent of the cases are children who have suffered muscle weakness or paralysis, including in the face, neck, back or limbs.

The affected have reportedly ranged in age from 18 to 4-years-old. "Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now".

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

The condition is not new, but officials started to see a rise in cases in 2014; and there was another spike in 2016.

"We understand that people particularly parents are concerned", Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a here media briefing on Tuesday.

The cause is still unknown. Viruses that can cause the disease include poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses and West Nile virus. They have not isolated the cause of these cases.




After testing patients' stool specimens, the CDC determined poliovirus is not the cause of the AFM cases. Investigators have also ruled out a variety of germs. Since then, no large outbreaks of virus have occurred, according to the CDC.

It shows distinct abnormalities of the spinal cord gray matter on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

It's not clear who is at risk.

Pardo-Villamizar said identifying vulnerable populations is "a work in progress". "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said.

MA has seen a total of 16 confirmed cases in children since 2014, plus one probable case in an adult.

"This is a pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier said. There have been cases each year since, but the numbers have been higher on alternate years.

A study published last year found 6 of 8 children in Colorado with acute flaccid myelitis still struggled with motor skills one year after their diagnosis.

Other enteroviruses have also been found in patients with AFM. Muscles and reflexes are weakened and some patients are left paralyzed.

The MDH says the case is now being reviewed, and did not provide information regarding where in the state this particular case was diagnosed, or whether or not the child is in the hospital. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

KHN's coverage of children's health care issues is supported in part by the Heising-Simons Foundation.

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