Carmen Heredia Rodriguez Kaiser Health news
Compared to the number of children with a rare neurological disease, which causes poly-like symptoms, health care professionals across the country lash in order to understand the disease. However, more than four years after health officials first recorded the latest enforcement in cases, much about the national outbreak remains a mystery.
Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) affects the gray mother in the spinal cord, causing sudden muscular weakness and loss of reflexes. The disease can cause serious complications – including paralysis or respiratory failure – and requires immediate medical attention.
Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating 127 cases of possible AFM, 62 of which were approved this year in 22 countries. At least 90 percent of cases are between 18 and younger. The average age of patients is 4 years.
AFM remains extremely rare, even with a recent increase. The CDC estimates that the disease will get less than a million Americans. Officials advised parents not to panic, but to remain alert to any sudden occurrence of symptoms. They also suggested that children stay updated with their vaccines and practice good habits at hand.
This year's eruption became the third AFM horse in three years. From August 2014 to September 2018, 386 cases were confirmed. However, experts still do not understand the key aspects of the disease, including its source, and which are most at risk.
"We do not know much about AFM," said dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Here's what the puzzle of health officials about AFM:
The cause is still unknown.
Acute flaccid myelitis can be caused by viruses such as polyol or West Nile. However, federal officials said that these viruses were not associated with an outbreak of the United States in the last four years. They did not isolate the cause of these cases.
Despite symptoms that resemble childhood paralysis, AFM cases have not tested positive for this virus, according to CDC. Investigators also excluded a number of calls. Environmental factors, viruses and other pathogens are still contemplating.
The AFM outbreak in 2014 coincided with the rise in another virus that caused severe respiratory problems, called the EV-D68. However, the CDC was unable to determine the causal relationship between AFM and the virus. Since then, there have been no major outbreaks of the virus, according to CDC.
Dr. Carlos Pardo-Villamizar, a neurologist and director of the Center for Transverse Myelitis Johns Hopkins, said that the secret depends on whether the damage caused by AFM was caused by an external agent or physical defense.
"At this moment, we do not know whether it is a virus that comes in and causes direct damage to the gray matter in the spinal cord," he said, "or if the virus triggers immune responses that cause secondary damage to the spinal cord."
It's not clear who is in danger.
Although it seems that the disease affects a particular age group, experts on the continuous disease do not know who will likely receive acute wet myelitis.
Pardo-Villamizar said that identifying vulnerable populations is "work in progress".
Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and mid-medical dean of Medicine at Missouri-Kansas City University, said that many of the patients she saw were healthy children before the illness got sick. It is suspected that several factors are likely to get AFM, but several cases need to be examined to find the answer.
Long-term effects are not known.
The CDC said that it did not know how long the patients would last symptoms of the disease. However, experts say that the initial indicators from a small number of cases show a grim forecast.
A study published last year found that six out of eight children in Colorado with acute flaccid myelitis still have motor skills for another year after diagnosis. Nevertheless, the researchers found that patients and families "proved a high degree of resistance and recovery."
"Most of these patients have extensive problems," said Pardo-Villamizar, who did not participate in the study.
Jackson, who also saw persistent muscular weakness in patients, said she believed that the CDC might be embarrassing to determine the long-term effects of the disease, as existing studies included only a small number of patients. Several studies involving a larger share of certified cases are needed to better understand long-term results, she said.