- The number of cases of a rare paralyzing illness in children in the United States has jumped, according to federal officials.
Officials said three cases of acute flaccid myelitis have been reported in North Carolina this year - two probable and one confirmed.
The spinal cord condition is caused by a polio-like enterovirus and manifests with similar symptoms, particularly muscle weakness and partial paralysis. To help prevent the illness' spread, the CDC advises proper hand washing, staying up to date on vaccines and using mosquito repellent to avoid bites. Since the CDC started keeping track in August 2014, there have been 386 cases of AFM - mostly in children.
Health experts have ruled out some causes, including poliovirus and West Nile virus. However, none of the USA patients tested positive for polio, and, according to Dr. Messonnier, none of this year's cases have been linked to West Nile virus.
The mysterious increase in cases of AFM, as it's called, was first spotted in the late summer and autumn of 2014.
Despite the recent spike in reported cases of AFM, Messonnier underscored that the disease is "incredibly rare" and has been diagnosed annually at a rate of less than one in a million since 2014.
Rooney said, "It seems from most of the evidence so far there may be a connection to viruses". Other symptoms include facial drooping, difficulty moving the eyes, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech.
The following year, there were 22 confirmed cases in 17 states, and 2016 saw 149 cases in 39 jurisdictions, including D.C. In 2017 there were 33 confirmed cases in 16 states. The CDC said AFM is still very much a mystery, but it's working to solve it.
Rarely, people with AFM can suffer respiratory failure and require ventilator support when their breathing muscles become too weak. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said.
The number is almost double the amount observed in 2017, when 33 AFM cases were found in the US. It's also important to note that the number of known or suspected cases is small, so the odds of contracting the illness are extremely low.
"This is actually a pretty dramatic disease", she said.
Follow-up with patients from the 2014 and 2016 waves has shown that most children do not recover from acute flaccid myelitis, for which there now is no cure. Symptom onset is generally quite sudden, and Messonnier urged parents to seek medical care quickly for children displaying these symptoms.