3 cases of 'mysterious', polio-like condition investigated in Alabama

Faith Castro
October 25, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it is investigating 28 new cases across the USA of a rare-polio like illness.

A total of 62 cases of the condition, which primarily affects children and can cause paralysis, have been confirmed and the CDC is investigating 155 cases across 22 states, up from 127 last week.

Many more cases have been reported, including three in Georgia.

The CDC said it also is testing specimens, including stool, blood and cerebrospinal fluid, from suspected AFM cases and working with healthcare providers, health departments, policymakers, the public and other partners to gather information on the condition. A person's chance of getting AFM is approximately 1 in a million. "We continue to investigate to better understand the clinical picture of AFM cases, risk factors and possible causes of the increase in cases".

Although the symptoms of AFM have been described as "polio-like", polio has been ruled out as a cause in the USA cases, CDC said in a press conference.

Poliovirus and West Nile virus may sometimes lead to AFM.

By the time any of the prominent symptoms occur-droopy eyelid, weak arm or trouble standing up-the virus is already gone.

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"I can confirm that since September, we have certainly seen an increase of patients with muscle weakness who also had a preceding viral illness", Dr. Jeremy Friedman, associate pediatrician-in-chief at the Hospital for Sick Children, told CBC.

The CDC is open to the possibility that it's not a virus that is causing the condition, but can not find any other plausible cause, either.

Health officials say there are several potential causes of the condition, including certain viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

Most of the AFM cases that the CDC has studied have no indication of any particular infection.

While a lot is still unknown about the condition, CDC experts are looking to past outbreak patterns to try and predict when this one will hit its peak. "That's something that we're still really learning about", Jones said. However, they want to stress how rare this condition is.

The rare but serious condition affects people's nervous system, particularly the area of the spinal cord called gray matter.

Messonnier said parents (and kids) need to take preventative steps, such as washing their hands (the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infections), using insect repellent and staying current on all immunizations, to help fight the virus causing AFM.

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