A rare and dangerous polio-like disease known as Acute Flaccid Myelitis continues to spread across the United States, as 252 cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 90 cases being confirmed across 27 states. The disease primarily affects children, as 90 percent of the confirmed cases have been people under the age of 18, with the average age being four years old.
Acute Flaccid Myelitis, more commonly referred to as AFM, is an extremely rare and serious condition that attacks a person’s nervous system. It can even cause paralysis. There is no vaccine available for AFM and current treatments focus primarily on alleviating a patient’s symptoms.
Doctors first began to take notice of the disease back in early October when six children were discovered to have AFM in Minnesota. Typically, a state like Minnesota will see one case of AFM per year, which is why officials were worried when it jumped to six in September. And now, it appears the condition is spreading across the country, as more than half of the states in America have reported cases to the CDC since mid-September.
According to The Washington Post, experts have been doing “extensive” laboratory testing in the hopes of discovering the cause of the disease spreading but as of now, they remain unsure of how AFM spreads. To help reduce your child’s risk, doctors encourage parents to pay attention to symptoms in their children, including: “limb weakness, facial drooping, and trouble swallowing.”
“We understand that people, particularly parents, are concerned about AFM,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “There is a lot we don’t know about AFM, and I am frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven’t been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness.”
Some doctors have claimed that that enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, is the cause of AFM but the CDC has pushed back against this claim, saying that there has been no proven correlation between the two. The CDC, which received information on 362 cases of AFM in America from August 2014 through August 2018, also encourages parents and children to practice basic disease prevention steps: make sure you and your family are up to date on all vaccinations, prevent mosquito bites, and regularly wash your hands.