MDH: 7th Minnesota case of AFM 'under review' by CDC

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of 127 patients under investigation for acute flaccid myelitis this year.

Health experts say the disease can lead to paralysis and even death, but no deaths have been reported so far this year.

State and national health authorities are raising the alarm about a polio-like "mystery illness" that has left dozens of children with paralysis and other symptoms in MA and 21 other states. Since 2014, 386 cases have been confirmed, the CDC said on Tuesday. But officials haven't been able to find a single agent that would explain the clusters of cases that occur around the same time. "There is a lot we don't know about AFM, and I'm frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness".

Physicians first began noticing an increase in AFM patients in 2014, with roughly 120 confirmed cases. Another spike came in 2016. One child with the disorder died in 2017. Officials have been unable to determine why the spikes are coming in waves.

It's too early to know whether the total for 2018 will surpass those previous years. The rare but serious disorder affects a person's nervous system, specifically the spinal cord.

Medical experts aren't sure what causes AFM, but it can occur as a result of a variety of viral illnesses including enteroviruses, West Nile virus, and adenoviruses.

In an email Tuesday, Maryland Department of Health spokeswoman Brittany Fowler said the CDC will "make a determination about the status of the cases" in Maryland "based on clinical and laboratory information". Maryland's first case was reported September 21.

There are no known cases of the illness in either Virginia or D.C., according to area health officials. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said. Some with AFM will feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes.

Messonnier said some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly while others continue to struggle with paralysis.

"What we have been told is that he's the best case scenario of a hard situation", she said. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states. There have been cases each year since, but the numbers have been higher on alternate years.

The CDC is investigating the outbreak.

She said it was important for parents and clinicians to remember that this is a rare condition, affecting less than 1 in 1 million people under 18.

The CDC also does not yet know who may be at a higher risk for developing AFM or the long-term consequences of the condition.

She said that CDC has tested every stool specimen from AFM patients.

The CDC is actively investigating and monitoring disease activity and recommends taking standard prevention measures such as hand-washing, protecting oneself from mosquito bites and staying up-to-date on vaccinations.

"Any weakness, including trouble swallowing, weakness of an extremity, especially in a child who has recently gone through signs of an infection, those would be the main red flags", said Sarah Hopkins. But, if their child is diagnosed, parents should prepare for extensive physical therapy - therapy that isn't always covered by insurance, he said. Of these, 62 cases have been confirmed in 22 states. A spokeswoman for hospital said they have notified the health department and are working with the CDC to learn more about the illness.

States are reporting their cases to the CDC, Messonnier said.

Dana Hedgpeth and Justin Wm.

  • Santos West