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Why Are Children Suffering Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

According to the CDC, 90 cases of the polio-like illness called acute flaccid myelitis have been confirmed so far in 2018.

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed 90 cases of acute flaccid myelitis in 27 states so far this year. Most of the patients afflicted with this polio-like condition are children. Some recover but many are left unable to move their arms, legs or head.

What Is the Cause of Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

The CDC suspects that one or more viruses are behind this devastating and untreatable disorder, but they have been unable to identify the specific pathogen. Parents and pediatricians have been critical of the CDC for taking so long to figure out what’s causing the problem. Cases have been reported since 2014, with significant numbers of youngsters afflicted in that year, 2016 and now in 2018. This every-other-year pattern is highly suggestive of a viral infection.

Investigators have ruled out both polio virus and West Nile virus. They have also ruled out vaccinations as a source of this condition. Most of the cases seem to follow a respiratory tract infection that includes a fever.

The CDC is investigating an additional 162 suspected cases to see if they meet the criteria for acute flaccid myelitis. Parents who are concerned about their children’s symptoms should immediately check with their child’s physician. There is no known cure, but supportive measures may be helpful.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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