Published: Thu, October 25, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Updated CDC Figures Suggest 386 Acute Flaccid Myelitis Cases Since August 2014

Updated CDC Figures Suggest 386 Acute Flaccid Myelitis Cases Since August 2014

So far, 62 cases have been confirmed across 22 states this year, a number that remains unchanged.

"We're already starting to think about will she be able to drive, will she ever be able to play soccer again", her mother Elizabeth Holcombe said.

Ohio's reported cases occurred in Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Mercer and Pickaway counties in August and September, and all affected boys from 1 to 13 years of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state health department.

"Even with the spike of cases that we have at the moment, it's still an incredibly rare condition", Friedman said.

That figure may seem small, but Friedman said Sick Kids normally sees only about two cases of AFM a year and the condition carries an annual incidence risk of about one case per million children. Some with AFM will feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes.

The illness, called acute flaccid myelitis, appears to be on the rise in 2018 after causing just a handful of cases in 2017. Another kind of virus is suspected, but it's been found in only some of the cases.

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While it's speculative, many doctors believe those who develop AFM may have an underlying genetic predisposition to the condition. A child may get a runny nose or a slight fever, and in most cases there would be no reason for parents to worry - until the tell-tale symptoms of a droopy eyelid, or weak arm, or trouble standing showed up.

AFM cases on the rise in the U.S. Story continues below video.

The CDC said it also is testing specimens, including stool, blood and cerebrospinal fluid, from suspected AFM cases and working with healthcare providers, health departments, policymakers, the public and other partners to gather information on the condition.

While a lot is still unknown about the condition, CDC experts are looking to past outbreak patterns to try and predict when this one will hit its peak. "That's something that we're still really learning about", Jones said. They include West Nile virus, Jamestown Canyon virus, Lacrosse virus, Powassan virus, St. Louis encephalitis and Eastern equine encephalitis. When it infects pregnant women, the Zika virus can go into the brains of the developing fetuses and cause permanent damage. That virus has been identified as one cause of AFM.

This is why the CDC's advice for preventing an infection that might lead to AFM is so general: wash your hands, and cover up and use repellent to prevent insect and tick bites.

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