The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday confirmed 62 cases of a rare neurological condition known as acute flaccid myelitis in the United States.
Cases of acute AFM have been confirmed in 22 states and 90 percent of the cases involved children 18 or younger with an average age of 4 years old, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said. Another 65 reported cases are under investigation.
AFM affects the nervous system, particularly the area of spinal cord called gray matter, resulting in polio-like symptoms by causing muscles and reflexes to become weak. The onset of AFM can be identified by sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms or legs.
Some patients diagnosed with AFM recover quickly, while some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care, Messonnier said. The CDC is aware of one death in 2017 in a child that had AFM, but no deaths related to the condition have been reported this year.
Messonnier said the CDC recently received increased reports for patients suspected to have AFM with an onset of symptoms in August and September.
“Based on previous years, most AFM cases occur in the late summer and fall. The data we are reporting today is a substantially larger number than in previous months this year,” she said.
The number of cases reported during this period was similar to what was reported in the fall of 2014 and 2016.
None of the cases examined tested positive for poliovirus and it has been confirmed not to be a cause of these AFM cases.
AFM can be caused by other viruses, such as enterovirus and west nile virus, Messonnier said. Enterovirus was detected in several individual cases for which a cause was determined, while none of these patients has had west nile virus.
The CDC has provided information about AFM on its website and Messonnier encouraged parents to seek medical care immediately if they or their children experience sudden weakness of the arms or legs.
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