A “polio-like” condition that has left children in 22 states paralyzed may be more widespread than previously announced due to inadequate testing protocols and voluntary reporting requirements, experts say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there have been 62 confirmed cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis so far this year.
Since the first known outbreak of AFM in 2014, the devastating illness has reemerged with at least 50 confirmed cases between August and October in even-numbered years.
AFM often begins with signs of a respiratory infection but quickly progresses. Within a few hours, patients may have difficulty breathing and develop “flaccid weakness,” and one or more limbs may become paralyzed.
The emergence of AFM — also known as Acute Flaccid Paralysis, or AFP — coincided with a 2014 outbreak of EV-D68, an enterovirus associated with respiratory illness.
While a number of factors can cause AFM, including viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders, the exact cause of most cases isn’t known.
“I think the challenge is that we haven’t found one specific virus that is causing these complications,” said Dr. Devorah Segal, a pediatric neurology expert at Weill Cornell Medical College and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
“I don’t think we really understand why there have been peaks at these two-year intervals.”