CDC Investigates Cases Of Rare Neurological 'Mystery Illness' In Kids

Henrietta Brewer
October 18, 2018

Since then, Aamira has in a bed in the hospital's intensive care unit.

Last year, one child died of the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took steps to warn about the symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) after doctors recorded a jump in cases this year. Ninety percent of the cases have been in children, she says.

All of the worries about AFM just give parents and grandparents one more thing to worry about.

Some possible causes being investigated by the CDC include enteroviruses, which affect the digestive system, and rhinoviruses - the infectious agents associated with the common cold. It causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to weaken and can even cause paralysis. The pattern appears to be repeating this year. Since the phenomenon began in 2014, she said, the rate of infections has been less than one case per 1 million children in the country.

What's behind the rise in reports? Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states.


"We understand that people, particularly parents, are concerned about AFM", said Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, according to the Washington Post.

"We don't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or the reasons why they may be at higher risk". "We have detected enterovirus in several of these individual cases".

According to the CDC, there were 120 confirmed cases of AFM in the second half of 2014, 22 in 2015, 149 in 2016 and 33 in 2017. It is important that tests are done as soon as possible after someone develops symptoms.

While the CDC has yet to confirm a case in Virginia, Hoff said her son Camdyn was diagnosed with AFM while hospitalized at UVA Medical Center, falling ill with the telltale symptoms. Her daughter, now five, has regained the use of all her limbs except her right leg, though she still has weakness on her right side and uses a wheelchair or walker to get around.

Symptoms of AFM include neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop, and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

The disease can also affect the diaphragm, the muscle that helps us breathe.


"That's when children can really deteriorate and end up on a ventilator", Narula explains.

While the virus has similarities with polio, Messonnier stressed that polio was not the cause of the disease.

There is no specific treatment for AFM, the CDC says. Neurologists may suggest treatments on a case-by-case basis. Doctors are also urging that vaccines be kept up to date. "So we're very lucky that he had (physical therapy) through early intervention". In some cases, patients recover quickly.

What can be done to prevent AFM?

The CDC's Messonnier describes AFM as "pretty dramatic" and says the federal agency is escalating its response compared with that in previous years.


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