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Even though the acute flaccid myelitis outbreak of 2014 was in some cases attributed to an onset of the D68 enterovirus, California’s child paralysis outbreak still remains a mystery. According to the analysis conducted through regular surveillance by the California Department of Public Health, almost 59 cases of child paralysis were found across the state.
Acute flaccid myelitis affects subjects in a manner similar to polio. One or more limbs suffer from muscle weakness, leading to extensive motor dysfunctions. The spinal chord neural motor is also affected, which in turn causes paralysis to extend throughout the body at an increased rate.
This weakness of muscles lasts for a rather extended period, with almost 70% of the patients which provided follow-up data, 45 in total, presenting symptoms for a couple of months preceding diagnosis. Two of the patients who also suffered from immune system deficiency died roughly 60 days after diagnosis, making doctors state that those who present such vulnerabilities are in extreme danger if Acute Flaccid Myelitis gets diagnosed.
Even if the diseases’ symptoms are almost completely similar to poliomyelitis, their etiology is completely different. Subjects which were diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis did not have the poliovirus that leads to poliomyelitis in their systems.
According to a report released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 120 children with an average age of 7 were diagnosed with the disease since 2012. 67% of them showed improvements throughout the years but, unfortunately, only two cases were found where the patients fully recovered.
Because the reported cases have been gathered through a voluntary method, doctors cannot exactly say how many cases have been occurring across the US. The fact that biological samples from most patients arrive relatively late, thus lowering the probability of a conclusive analysis to be conducted, also greatly hinders the effort of finding the exact cause of AFM.
If one would take into account the fact that polio has been almost completely eradicated through vaccination, if the exact cause of AFM is found, the odds of eradicating this disease as well grow considerably. Even if new polio cases are almost completely zero, patients who suffered from this disease still have symptoms, even after vaccination. Post-polio syndrome is the most prevalent, consisting of muscles eventually stopping their normal function due to extended periods of weakness caused by poliomyelitis.
Although California’s child paralysis outbreak still remains a mystery, allowing AFM to be reportable on its own, without simply labeling it as an unusual disease is the first step towards combating it. Several states have already made the elusive disease specifically reportable, with more of them planning to join the fray in the coming months of 2016.