Acute flaccid myelitis attacks several American states causing death and panic
USA – November 14, 2018
The American medical society and ordinary citizens, especially those with children, are in panic, as a very rare species of acute flaccid myelitis has struck several states across the U.S.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported yesterday, on Tuesday, the number of cases of acute flaccid myelitis registered this year is now about a hundred, and the disease is now spread among 27 states. Yet, this number might easily grow, as 162 additional patients are under investigation now. Unfortunately, children are the first victims of this illness, so parents should take all measures to prevent them from getting sick.
The panic was also caused due to the rareness of the disease, since it afflicts less than one in a million children; however, the symptoms of it are life-altering: AFM is able to paralyze a child's arms and legs, some of them would need ventilators to breathe; muscle weakness, slurred speech, and difficulty moving eyes and swallowing are also consequences of this nightmare.
Nancy Messonnier, the CDC's director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, stated that patients with AFM typically have a fever or respiratory illness three to ten days before they developed weakness in the arms or legs, so this disease is especially dangerous as it can be confused with the flu.
“What we don’t know is what's triggering AFM; it may be one of the viruses we have already tested. It may be a virus we haven’t yet detected. Or it could be the virus is kicking off another process and it is actually triggering (AFM) through an autoimmune process,” she added.
No matter how hard the medical society has been trying to tackle this disease, parents of children afflicted with AFM have grown frustrated with the speed of identifying a cause of the disease. Both in social media posts and in the interviews given, parents have urged the CDC and local health departments to investigate the cause of the illness aggressively.
According to Medicinet.com, “Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is a rare but serious condition. It affects the nervous system, specifically the area of spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak. This condition is not new, but the increase in cases we saw starting in 2014 is new. Still, CDC estimates that less than one in a million people in the United States will get AFM every year. There are a variety of possible causes of AFM, such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. Most of the cases that CDC has learned about have been in children.
AFM is diagnosed by examining a patient's nervous system in combination with reviewing pictures of the spinal cord. A doctor can examine a patient's nervous system and the places on the body where he or she has weakness, poor muscle tone, and decreased reflexes. A doctor can also do an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to look at a patient's brain and spinal cord, do lab tests on the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid around the brain and spinal cord), and may check nerve conduction (impulse sent along a nerve fiber) and response. It is important that the tests are done as soon as possible after the patient develops symptoms.”