CDC fights rare spinal cord illness: 4 things to know

Kenny Tucker
December 1, 2018

The illness could have many causes, officials said, such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders.

This map shows confirmed cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis across the USA, as of November 23, 2018. AFM typically develops in the wake of an enterovirus (think: respiratory issues, fever), most often in children. "I'm sure if I provide the data to each senator about how many cases they have in their state, they'll be made more aware about how serious this is, and how anxious parents are." .

With an increase in cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a debilitating, polio-like disease that has been affecting children in NY and across the country, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on Congress to immediately provide emergency funding for research, treatment, and prevention efforts against this disease. At the end of September, the CDC reported 38 cases had been confirmed in 16 states.

According to the CDC's website, there have been 116 confirmed cases of AFM in 31 states this year.

In addition to the 116 confirmed diagnoses, 170 possible AFM cases are now under investigation.

CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said in a news release, "I want to reaffirm to parents, patients, and our Nation CDC's commitment to this serious medical condition".

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Almost three months after he arrived at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario suffering from a rare polio-like condition, a four-year-old boy is back home and preparing for school. "There is still a lot to learn about AFM and more study is needed".

The children involved in this outbreak have tested negative for polio and West Nile.

Even with the rise in cases, according to the CDC, "less than one to two in a million children in the United States will get AFM every year". An additional 170 possible cases of AFM are under investigation.

There is no specific treatment for AFM, but a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses, may recommend interventions on a case-by-case basis.

The children's initial symptoms are similar to those associated with viral infections, she said.

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