CDC: Polio-Like Illness Plaguing the U.S.

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A disease resembling the rare condition of Polio continues to spread across the country and has made its way south to Georgia, with three cases reported thus far.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been investigating at least 386 potential cases of the disease, called “acute flaccid myelitis” (AFM). Since 2014. the CDC has confirmed 62 cases in a total of 22 states this year. Director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Nancy Messonnier said this “dramatic” and serious condition has been causing a lot of concern across the nation. Of the confirmed cases, children make up 90 percent; the average age is 4 years old.

In order to have a better understanding of the situation, here is some information that everyone needs to know:

What is AFM?
AFM is a rare condition that affects the spinal cord area called gray matter and it can cause paralysis. The initial cause of most cases is unknown, but there have been exceptions where a few cases have been connected to other viruses. There is no specific way to treat AFM and the long-term implications are unknown, according to the CDC.

What are the symptoms?
Signs to look for include drooping face and eyelids, difficulty with eye movement and swallowing and slurred speech. In more severe cases, children may have trouble with breathing and require a ventilator due to muscle weakness.

Has anyone died from AFM?
So far, there has been one report for a child from 2017.

What are the odds for contracting AFM?
Even though case numbers have been climbing since 2014, AFM still only affects a small percentage of the U.S. population–less an one million individuals annually.

What can be done to prevent AFM?
Parents should take precautions so that they and their children remain healthy. This can be accomplished through basic actions, such as washing hands, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, staying home when sick and keeping up to date on vaccines.


The cause of AFM is largely unknown, but it is believed to be caused by viruses, namely the enterovirus D68. The symptoms of this virus are similar to complications from others, such as the Nile West Virus or the poliovirus. The EV-D68 virus does see outbreaks on occasion, typically in the summer or fall; people with mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all can often be infected.

The CDC believes that because the EV-D68 was present in many of the earlier confirmed cases of AFM, that it is the primary cause of AFM. There is good news, however. Messonnier said the CDC has tested every stool sample from patients afflicted with AFM. All have come back negative for the poliovirus and the West Nile Virus has not been linked to any other cases, either.

Dr. Sumit Verma, medical director for the Neuromuscular Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, said that, while there is no cure for AFM, the symptoms are quite manageable. He also added that rehabilitation can offer improvement to function and quality of life. “It’s a very slow rehab and recovery,’’ Verma told Georgia Health News. “The majority of kids have persistent weakness.’’

Messonnier has encouraged parents to seek medical help right away if they or their child/children begins suffering symptoms of AFM. The health of everyone is the number one priority.



Jessica Baker

Jessica Baker is a Journalism and Emerging Media major at KSU and an intern at Hers Magazine as well as AllWrite Publishing.

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