Friday, October 7, 2016

New Cases of Polio-Like Virus Cause Paralysis in Children

Although the developed world hasn't been worried about polio virus for some time now, the CDC has recently reported an increase in the number of cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis - a polio-like illness- over the past few months. The illness is exclusively affecting children, with a median age of infection at seven years old. Children with the condition present with fever and headaches that progress to pain and weakness in the extremities as well as in the muscles of the face and throat, which can lead to respiratory failure in the more severe cases. Mimicking polio, AFM damages the spinal cord and can cause permanent paralysis and other neurological deficits.

In 2015, the CDC reported 21 total cases of AFM, yet since August 31st of this year, we've already seen over 50 cases across 24 states. While studies conducted in 2014 seemed to link AFM with a virus known as EV-D68, the CDC has yet to find a single causative agent associated with the development of AFM in these most recent 50 cases. This suggests that multiple viruses could be causing the increase, or that we simply haven't found the specific agent yet.

Despite the increase in cases, the chance of contracting this illness is still very rare. And while a majority of children affected with AFM recover after a mild, flu-like illness, those who exhibit the more dangerous symptoms of the disease can be a frightening reminder that we still have much more to learn.

-Brianna Bolanos

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