Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Multiple cases of rare polio-like illness under investigation in North Carolina

A Mysterious Polio-Like Illness Is on the Rise in Kids. Scientists Don't Know Why. 'Mystery illness' hits Massachusetts
Gustavo Carr | 19 October, 2018, 04:33

A rare, polio-like disease causing paralysis is affecting children across the country. Symptoms also can include facial droop and weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids or difficulty swallowing and slurred speech.

The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily. That does not include the case being treated at Wolfson Children's Hospital.

Medical officials do not know how the disease is spreading or what is causing it in the first place, but we do know that it primarily affects the young - more than 90 percent of patients are under 18. The average age of patients is 4. While she can't predict how 2018 will turn out, Messonnier said that the number of cases so far this year seems to be in line with the previous two waves in 2014 and 2016.

Since 2014, 386 cases have been confirmed, the CDC said on Tuesday. Seven children have been affected in that state. Tyler thinks the virus, called enterovirus D68, has changed since it was first identified in 1962, becoming more unsafe.

"CDC has tested every stool specimen from the AFM patients, and none of the specimens have tested positive for the poliovirus", Ms Messonnier said.

"This is a mystery and we haven't solved it yet, so we have to be thinking broadly", said Messonnier, adding, "You'd think that we would finding a single agent and that's not what we're finding". The illness has been compared to the polio and West Nile viruses.

The long-term effects are not known, and outcomes have been different for patients, with some recovering quickly and others having lasting paralysis and requiring ongoing care. The CDC knows of one child who died with the disorder in 2017.

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"As a parent myself, I understand what it is like to be scared for your child".

"This remains a rare syndrome, but the similarities to poliomyelitis, polio-like illness, are concerning and bear close monitoring", Dr. Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, told ABC News in an interview.

The CDC encourages people to prevent the disease by staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and protecting against mosquito bites.

The CDC says to be on the lookout for the onset of arm or leg weakness, and loss of muscle tone and reflexes. The highest number of cases took place in 2016, when 149 were reported cases in 39 states.

But researchers who have studied the muscle-weakening disease-called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)-most closely say they now have a good understanding of its primary cause, although they still do not know how to treat the condition or halt its progression.

Geography also does not appear to be a factor, with the confirmed cases spread across 22 of the 50 U.S. states.

Some children with AFM recover full motion and strength-usually within a few months-whereas in others the nerve damage seems permanent, she says.