Most states facing confirmed or possible cases of polio-like illness

Pearl Mccarthy
October 18, 2018

Health officials in Oklahoma say an Oklahoma child has been diagnosed with a polio-like illness that is sweeping the country.

The MDH says the case is now being reviewed, and did not provide information regarding where in the state this particular case was diagnosed, or whether or not the child is in the hospital. Some also experience facial droop, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, or slurred speech. "Most of the cases that CDC has learned about have been in children", said the CDC.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is warning about a rare mysterious illness affecting American children, which can cause "polio-like" symptoms. No one knows what causes AFM, although a virus or viruses are suspected.

"[There's] nothing that provides the unifying diagnosis that we'd expect to explain these peaks of disease", Messonnier said.

"We know this can be frightening for parents", Messonnier said. Between January and August 2018, there were fewer than five cases reported, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which they say is within the "normal range" of the disease.

Officials began tracking the disease in 2014 when they received reports of 120 cases nationwide.

Dr. Leslie Benson, assistant director of Children's pediatric neuroimmunology program, said AFM patients show a wide spectrum of symptoms.

The cause of most of the AFM incidents is unknown, according to the CDC, as are the long-term effects.

Roughly 90 percent of the cases so far have involved children, who suffer from muscle weakness or paralysis that impacts face, neck, back or limbs.

62 cases of AFM confirmed across 22 states: CDC
The agency doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing this condition or the reasons they may be at higher risk. Nancy Messonnier , director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases for the CDC.

The agency knows that poliovirus is not the cause of these cases, because CDC has tested every single stool specimen from patients, and none have tested positive for poliovirus.

Doctors say that most of the reported cases of AFM involve those under the age of 18.

"As a parent myself I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", Messonnier said.

For example, the CDC doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or why some are at higher risk, she said.

"It attacked [my child's] body and her spinal cord a certain way that seems to be happening to other kids too", said Josh Payne, the parent of a child battling AFM. "So we're very lucky that he had (physical therapy) through early intervention".

Here is what is known about the disease that has had 127 confirmed or suspected cases in 22 states as of Tuesday, including Pennsylvania.

Some patients recover completely, while others continue to struggle with muscle weakness.

The CDC is not saying how many states have patients under investigation, only that it's more than 22.

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