The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have announced there have been 286 total cases of acute flaccid myelitis (also known as AFM) across the United States last year. Of these cases, 116 have been confirmed while 170 cases are still pending as they are under investigation.
Acute Flaccid Myelitis is a rare, polio-like condition that typically leads to the sudden onset of paralysis. Symptoms resemble other viral illnesses, with an early fever and cough followed by muscle weakness; but these quickly moves to paralysis caused by damage to the spinal cord within 3 to 10 days after the appearance of the primary symptoms. Symptoms of this type are often the result of a viral infection; and a specific family of enterovirus—EV-D68—is a prime suspect in these cases. Enteroviruses are common in the fall and winter and only rarely cause any symptoms worse than what would otherwise be assumed to be the common cold.
While that is certainly scary enough, more than 90 percent of the 440 patients diagnosed with AFM since 2014 have been children under the age of 4. Most of these children confirmed with the disease experienced the same symptoms described above.
The AFM patients who have been confirmed this year are spread across 31 states. 15 of these cases were diagnosed in Colorado, followed by 14 in Texas. 12 states report only one confirmed case and 19 states have reported zero confirmed cases.
While the preponderance of two states having remarkably instances is certainly something to consider, it is not yet clear whether those states (or any other, for that matter) are at a higher risk or if, perhaps, those states are simply better at identifying, and then reporting the disease. After all, even though the CDC certainly encourages doctors to report these cases, it is not required (so, perhaps, doctors are not reporting the cases, too).
The CDC also wants to remind that even though we have seen a rise in these cases, “less than one to two in a million children in the United States will get AFM every year;” so it is, in fact, very rare.
The CDC also wants to make it known that the increase in AFM cases has not been linked to vaccines and, even though it resembles polio, AFM is not caused by polio.