Parents Accuse CDC Of Not Reporting Children’s Deaths From AFM, A Polio-Like Illness That’s Been Spreading

AFM is a disease spreading throughout the nation that can paralyze and even kill a child.

A sick child asleep on a couch, while their mother feels their forehead for fever
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AFM is a disease spreading throughout the nation that can paralyze and even kill a child.

Parents do not approve of the way the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention is handling the outbreak of AFM, CNN is reporting. AFM stands for acute flaccid myelitis, which is a disease that can paralyze a healthy child within hours of contracting it. The spread of this disease is verging on an epidemic, as 26 states have confirmed cases of AFM, and 11 additional states have possible cases. A total of 80 children have been diagnosed with the illness, with 219 possible cases of the illness still under investigation. While children have allegedly died from this devastating disease, the AFM surveillance website said that the CDC hasn’t reported any deaths, outraging grieving parents.

Parents are not the only ones with complaints, however — doctors agree that the spread of AFM could be handled better. The CDC has implemented a system where doctors are to report any AFM diagnosis to their state health department, who will then deliver the information to the CDC. Two pediatric neurologists that serve as medical advisers to the CDC on the AFM disease state that the agency could be faster in reviewing and reporting cases and deaths.

“It shouldn’t be taking this long to confirm these cases,” said Dr. Keith Van Haren, assistant professor of neurology at the Stanford University School of Medicine and one of the CDC advisers. “That kind of a turn around time for mortality reviews is a symptom of a disconnect at the CDC.”

When confronted, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC, a 30-year veteran of the CDC, and a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service, had answers. She shared that the CDC was trying to “catch up with the backlog” and that they’ve taken action by expanding “the number of disease detectives on the program.”

“I certainly want to make sure the information that we have is shared as quickly as possible,” Schuchat said. “We wish we understood all that we need to about this disease and how to best diagnose it, how to treat it and how to give families enough information about what to expect. I think it’s very challenging when your child has been through something quite traumatic to not even know what the prognosis is.”

Schuchat also pointed out that the process may be handled slowly due to the careful analysis that must be done on medical records. There is no simple lab test to help determine if one has the disease, so AFM reports must be looked over carefully. More than a dozen families will meet with Schuchat Tuesday, November 13 in Washington to discuss the problems with the current system.