Today (Oct. 16), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it had received reports of 127 cases of people with the condition, called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), in 2018. One child with the disorder died in 2017.
It shows distinct abnormalities of the spinal cord gray matter on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
And in very rare cases, AFM can trigger fatal neurological complications, according to the CDC.
Standardized surveillance was established in 2015 to monitor this illness and attempt to estimate the baseline incidence.
Maryland health officials said their first case was reported to them September 21. Most of the cases involve children, officials said.
Parents and clinicians should remember that this is a rare condition, affecting less than one in a million people, she said.
A polio-like illness that can cause paralysis in children is now here in the Carolinas.
Physicians first began noticing an increase in AFM patients in 2014, with roughly 120 confirmed cases. "Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause of these AFM cases".
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In research developments, a team based at the J. Craig Venter Institute conducted experiments to see if a specific EV-D68 genotype is linked to neurologic symptoms and found that some viruses from the 2014 outbreak can infect neuronal cells.
Messonnier said that of the cases confirmed this year, none have been related to the polio virus or West Nile virus.
It's possible that some milder cases haven't been reported by doctors to their state health department or the CDC, but Messonnier believes that number would be small. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said.
Messonnier said the search for a cause is frustrating, and so far, no particular pathogen or immune response has been identified that would explain the big AFM peaks. Officials will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases.
The agency doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing this condition or the reasons they may be at higher risk.
She said that CDC has tested every stool specimen from AFM patients. Of these, 62 have been confirmed by the CDC, and the remainder continue to be investigated, said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the agency's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. noting that the confirmed cases are in 22 states.
The CDC says disease prevention steps should be followed, including staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and using mosquito repellant. But some state health departments have been making public their reported cases.
States are not required to provide this information to the CDC but have been voluntarily reporting their data.