The polio-like acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) has spread to 31 states in the US, with 116 confirmed cases. The situation is alarming as little is known about the disease: experts are still in the dark about what causes the condition or how to treat or prevent it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is observing 170 others who show the same symptoms. Most of the affected people are under 18; the average age of patients is 4. Colorado is the worst affected state with 15 patients, followed by Texas which has 14. More people were affected by the disease in previous years, and medical experts are yet to find out what causes it. AFM causes paralysis and in rare cases, death.
In most cases, the victims are children under 4. A good majority of them experienced a viral illness with symptoms like fever, cough and respiratory problems, and in about 10 days paralysis started to set in. This was followed by a difficulty in moving the eyes, difficulty in swallowing and facial drooping as in polio. The illness affects the spinal cord and causes a serious neurological condition that weakens reflexes as well as muscles. Usually, it occurs in the fall, during the flu season. If the illness affects the lower part of the spinal cord, legs, rather than the arms will be paralyzed. If it is closer to the neck, the patients will find it difficult to move the head, neck and shoulders.
The CDC has established a task force to find out what causes the disease and how it can be treated or prevented. Robert R. Redfield, the director of CDC, reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to the medical condition. The task force will ensure that the full capacity of the scientific community is engaged in finding out ways in which the condition can be understood, treated and prevented. There was an outbreak of AFM in Colorado in 2014 affecting 120 people, mostly children. There were 22 confirmed cases in 2015, 149 cases in 2016 and 33 in 2017.