Polio-Like Disease Plaguing Children Confuses CDC

Eighty-nine reported cases of acute flaccid myelitis, a neurological disease resembling poliovirus


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 89 cases across 33 states of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), also often referred to as Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP), a neurological disease whose symptoms resemble those of poliovirus and non-polio enteroviruses.

Most AFM patients are children, approximately seven years old, whose symptoms mirror those of polio and non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses and the West Nile virus.

The CDC reports they have not identified the cause or treatment for AFM. Only three children recovered fully, although 85 percent recovered partially.

Even with an increase in cases in 2016, AFM remains a very rare disease (less than one in a million). CDC has not yet determined who is at higher risk for developing AFM, or the reasons why they may be at higher risk.

It is unclear what pathogen (germ) or immune response is causing the disruption of signals sent from the nervous system to the muscles causing weakness in the arms and legs.

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The CDC is in the early stages of gathering information about AFM and is monitoring disease activity, investigating cases, risk factors and causes of the mystery illness. AFM affects a person’s nervous system, particularly the spinal cord.

Being up to date on all recommended vaccinations, including poliovirus, is one way to protect yourself from a disease that can cause AFM. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure your family is up to date on all recommended vaccines.

For best protection, children should get four doses of polio vaccine. Sanofi is the manufacturer of Ipol.

You can protect yourself from mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile virus, another known cause of AFM, by using mosquito repellent and staying indoors at dusk and dawn,

Until there are answers, the cause of the tragic cases of AFP/AFM that are occurring in the U.S. and other countries remains a mystery.