"For some of the previous cases we've identified one pathogen or another, but we have no unifying diagnosis". But the link between AFM and EV-D68 is unclear because not everyone who has AFM tests positive for the enterovirus. Polio was eradicated in the U.S.by vaccination.
While the cause of AFM is not clear, experts say it can occur as a result of a variety of viral illnesses including the polio virus, enteroviruses, West Nile virus, and adenoviruses.
"We are actually looking at everything". It causes hand, foot and mouth disease.
Although symptoms resemble polio, no evidence of poliovirus has been found in specimens from any case diagnosed so far, Messonnier said.
The surge has baffled health officials, who on Tuesday announced a change in the way the agency is counting cases. The pattern appears to be repeating this year. This condition is not new, but the increase in cases we saw starting in 2014 is new ...
The CDC is investigating 127 reported cases, including the ones that have been confirmed.
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More than 90 percent of the cases involved children 18 or younger, with an average age of just 4 years old. The most severe symptom is breathing trouble. The once-healthy child now relies on a wheelchair to get around, a ventilator to breathe and a feeding tube to eat. This year is one of them.
It is "a pretty dramatic disease", but fortunately most kids recover, Messonnier said. "Overall, the rate of AFM since 2014 is less than one in a million", she said. It's also a serious condition. A spokeswoman for hospital said they have notified the health department and are working with the CDC to learn more about the illness.
Dr. Leslie Benson, assistant director of Children's pediatric neuroimmunology program, said AFM patients show a wide spectrum of symptoms.
The CDC referred calls to individual state health departments. With the sudden onset of weakness, patients are "generally seeking medical care" and being evaluated by neurologists, infectious disease doctors and pediatricians. It tends to develop in children more than adults.
Although there is unlikely to be a vaccine or specific treatment anytime soon, there are still things researchers can do to combat AFM, Messacar says, such as keeping better track of enterovirus D68 and A71 infections, learning more about the link between the viruses and AFM, and understanding the genetic changes that have occurred in enterovirus D68 to make it more unsafe. Once a virus has attacked the nervous system, there's no known medical intervention that can reverse the effects.
Since 2014, doctors have been trying to find if there is a way to prevent or treat the damage that leads to AFM.