Acute Flaccid Myelitis, The Polio-Like Illness Affecting Children, Appears To Have Peaked

The CDC also suspects the illness is now on the decline.

A person holds a child's hand in hospital
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The CDC also suspects the illness is now on the decline.

The strange polio-like illness called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) that has been affecting children recently appears to have peaked and is now on the decline, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The illness causes polio-like paralysis and has been a cause for concern among parents. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, more than half of the states in the U.S. have reported cases of acute flaccid myelitis this year and there were concerns about a new epidemic as a result.

Normally considered a rare illness, reports of this polio-like disease were being reported more frequently this year, alarming authorities. However, as NBC News reports, it appears that the number of children being reported as infected has now peaked.

Out of a suspected 299 cases of acute flaccid myelitis, the CDC reports that 134 cases of AFM have been confirmed this year. Most of these cases were recorded as occurring in September and October. With a delay in reporting, the CDC now suspects the peak infection rate has been reached.

“Based on the number of reported cases of AFM in the United States through November 30, 2018, it appears that the number of persons under investigation (PUIs) for AFM has peaked and will continue to decline for the remainder of 2018.,” the CDC said in a statement on the matter.

This spike in children presenting with AFM has been the third spike since 2014, according to the Washington Post. In the four years following, more than 400 cases have been confirmed, along with one death related to AFM. Following the data, there appears to be a spike in cases in every other year. The highest peak was in 2016, with 149 confirmed cases of AFM. However, clinicians believe the illness is underdiagnosed and underreported.

It is unclear just what is causing these spikes in acute flaccid myelitis. Although, the Washington Post does state that “several experts say there is a strong correlation between AFM and outbreaks of a common respiratory virus called enterovirus D68.” The AFM task force within the CDC is also looking at whether a person’s own immune system might be responsible for this illness.

The illness is often described as being “polio-like” but there is little to suggest that the two diseases are linked other than sharing similar symptoms. As stated in a previous Inquisitr article, AFM is not even in the same family as the poliovirus.

In addition, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the polio vaccine or annual flu shots are somehow responsible for the recent spikes in reported cases of acute flaccid myelitis.