Medicine

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

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

The surge has baffled health officials, who on Tuesday announced a change in the way the agency is counting cases.

The child's mother, Reba Faircloth, told ABC affiliate WFTV in Orlando that her daughter started showing symptoms for some sort of illness on Thursday, and has been in the Intensive Care Unit since Sunday. "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".

In rare cases, AFM can cause neurological complications that could lead to death. According to data supplied by the CDC, the illness seems to spike around the month of September. It dipped back down to 33 in 2017, before rising again in 2018. So while it is a scary condition, it is also extremely rare and affects less than one in every million people in the United States - even with the spike in cases.

It's too early to know whether the total for 2018 will surpass those previous years.

The CDC advises getting vaccinated against Poliovirus and West Nile Virus due to both being potential causes of AFM.

No specific treatment is available for AFM and interventions are generally recommended on a case-by-case basis.

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

"Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now", Messonnier said. "When it does infect the spinal column or parts of the brain stem, it can cause fairly sudden onset weakness and paralysis". Some patients have recovered and others continue to experience paralysis, requiring ongoing care. In 2015, the CDC identified 22 patients who exhibited symptoms of AFM.

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These symptoms are similar to the poliovirus (which was eliminated in the USA in 1979 after a successful national vaccination program) as well as non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses, and the West Nile virus. He and Tyler say the CDC is being overly cautious in not acknowledging enterovirus D68's role in the illness.

Since 2014, Georgia public health officials said, there have been 11 confirmed or probable cases of AFM in the state, with five coming in 2016 alone.

Officials said they will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases.

"There is a lot we don't know about AFM", Messonnier said during a teleconference for reporters. No pathogen has been consistently detected in the patients' spinal fluid. They also suggested that children stay up to date with their vaccines and practice good hand washing habits. As this virus invades spinal cord of human body, the symptoms showing AFM are seen, Woods said.

The primary methods for preventing infection with the virus are the same as for any cold: wash hands frequently, sneeze into your arm or elbow and try to avoid close contact with people who are ill, Pavia says.

But, if their child is diagnosed, parents should prepare for extensive physical therapy - therapy that isn't always covered by insurance, he said.

States reporting suspected cases or cases under investigation are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Washington.

But some state health departments have been making public their reported cases.