HealthDay News — A rare but devastating polio-like virus appears to have made itself at home in the United States, partially paralyzing hundreds of children.
There have been 127 cases reported in 22 states so far this year, with 62 confirmed as acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), said Nancy Messonnier, M.D., head of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She announced the numbers in a Tuesday media briefing. This year’s outbreak marks the third wave of AFM to hit the United States since 2014, and this wave is on track to be the worst yet, experts say.
AFM first appeared in 2014 when 120 children across 34 states were stricken with mysterious muscle weakness. Another wave hit in 2016 with 149 patients affected in 39 states. CDC officials have not confirmed any specific cause of AFM, Messonnier said. Samples from some patients revealed the presence of enteroviruses, but others had been infected with a rhinovirus. The CDC also has not ruled out either environmental toxins or some sort of autoimmune disorder as potential causes of AFM, Messonnier added.
AFM typically causes weakness in the arms and legs but can affect other muscle groups. In the most severe cases, patients suffer from respiratory failure when the muscles involved with breathing become weak, the CDC says. Follow-up with patients from the 2014 and 2016 waves has shown that most children do not recover from AFM, for which there currently is no cure. The experts emphasized that even though AFM is regularly passing through the United States, it remains a rare illness.