According to a story from the Washington Post, new cases of the unusual, polio-like disease called acute flaccid myelitis have continued to appear through the United States recently. There are a total of 127 possible cases as of Tuesday October 16th, 2018. A total of 62 cases have been confirmed in 22 states according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This story provides an update to a story that we reported on last week, in which cases of acute flaccid myelitis began to appear in Minnesota.
About Acute Flaccid Myelitis
Acute flaccid myelitis is a condition that has only recently become known to science, and there is still a lot about it that remains unknown. This neurological disease can cause sudden symptoms, the most distinct of which is localized paralysis or weakness in the limbs. Scientists believe that this disease is most likely caused by infection of enterovirus 68. This virus is a close relative of poliovirus, which is the cause of polio and further suggests similarities between these illnesses. Symptoms of acute flaccid myelitis include acute limb paralysis, pain in the neck, limbs, or back, gray matter lesions (on MRI), difficulty breathing, and increased white blood cell count (suggesting inflammation or infection). There are currently no known treatments for acute flaccid myelitis; immune system altering drugs as well as other medications and procedures have been attempted, but none have seemed to have any effect. To learn more about acute flaccid myelitis, click here.
A Mysterious Pediatric Disease
This disease primarily affects children and over 90 percent of the recent cases have been in people age 18 or younger. However, the average age of patients so far is just four years old. Unfortunately, the explanation for why new cases of the disease have been cropping up (and have been doing so off and on for several years) is still a complete mystery to doctors and health officials.
In response to the new cases, the CDC and the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases have taken steps to spread awareness about the increase in cases and about acute flaccid myelitis itself. There are unfortunately basically no effective treatments for this disease, but the authorities will continue to monitor new case reports.