South Carolina is among the states that have reported an instance of a rare polio-like illness in children.
The Post and Courier reports the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control confirms one case of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) has been reported in the state.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said AFM is a rare but serious condition. It affects the nervous system, specifically the area of the spinal cord called gray matter. As a result, the muscles and reflexes in the body become weak.
Most of the cases that CDC has recently uncovered have been in children. “Of the confirmed cases, the average age is about 4 years old,” National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases director Nancy Messonnier said in a teleconference with reporters. “More than 90 percent of the cases are in children age 18 years and younger.”
The agency said doctors can distinguish between AFM and other neurologic conditions only with the help of testing and examinations.
The CDC is actively investigating AFM cases and monitoring disease activity to determine if there is a link between the uptick in cases. The agency said that they are working closely with healthcare providers and state and local health departments to increase awareness for AFM.
“Despite extensive laboratory testing, we have not determined what pathogen or immune response caused the arm or leg weakness and paralysis in most patients,” Messonnier said. “We don’t know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or the reasons why they may be at higher risk.”
Adding to the mystery, Messonnier said some patients have recovered while others continue to suffer paralysis or other complications. One child died from the virus last year.
The CDC is encouraging health care providers to recognize, and report suspected cases of AFM to their health departments, and for health departments to send this information to CDC to help them understand the nationwide burden of AFM.
Health officials did want to reassure parents that, even with the uptick, AFM cases remain extremely rare.