January 23, 2019
There were 201 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in the United States in 2018, a record number since cases of the mysterious, poliolike condition first spiked in 2014, according to an update from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The 201 confirmed AFM cases in 2018 were in 40 states. Texas had the most cases (25), followed by Colorado (16), Ohio (13), and Washington (11), with several states each reporting 10 cases.
The 201 confirmed cases of AFM in 2018 (as of January 18) are among a total of 364 reports of patients under investigation for AFM. The CDC and local health departments are still investigating some of these cases.
AFM causes muscle weakness and paralysis and affects mostly children, and the cause remains unknown. More than 90% of the patients with AFM had a mild respiratory illness or fever consistent with a viral infection before they developed AFM.
"Viral infections such as from enteroviruses are common, especially in children, and most people recover. We don't know why a small number of people develop AFM, while most others recover. We are continuing to investigate this," the CDC said in its update.
It's also unclear why there have been increases in AFM cases every 2 years since 2014. There were 35 confirmed cases in 16 states in 2017, 149 in 39 states and the District of Columbia in 2016, 22 in 17 states in 2015, and 120 cases in 34 states from August to December 2014.
In November, as reported by Medscape Medical News, CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, announced the creation of an AFM task force to help define the cause of the illness and possible treatment options.
"I want to reaffirm to parents, patients, and our Nation CDC's commitment to this serious medical condition," Redfield said in a statement. "This task force will ensure that the full capacity of the scientific community is engaged and working together to provide important answers and solutions to actively detect, more effectively treat, and ultimately prevent AFM and its consequences."
The CDC has updated interim advice for clinical management of patients with AFM on its website.