CDC Launches Task Force to Investigate Acute Flaccid Myelitis, a Mysterious Polio-Like Illness

November 20, 2018, 10:39 PM UTC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is launching a task force to investigate and improve the treatment of the polio-like illness known as acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), according to CDC director Dr. Robert R. Redfield in a statement today.

According to the CDC, the task force will continue investigating the possible causes of AFM and will work to improve the treatment and outcomes for those diagnosed with AFM.

Like largely eradicated polio, AFM is a neurologic condition that occurs mostly in children. The median age of people diagnosed with AFM is around seven years old. AFM is believed to be caused by viruses and can cause weakness in the arms and legs. Detection and diagnosis can be complicated by the fact that AFM symptoms mimic those of similar conditions like West Nile virus, such as cough and fever followed by difficulty swallowing, drooping eyes, and slurred speech in addition to sudden weakness in the limbs.

Cases of AFM in the United States started increasing in 2014, and spike every other year. In 2018 so far, there have been 106 cases confirmed in 29 states. That’s a major increase over this time even a month ago, when in October, the CDC had confirmed just 38 cases of AFM in 16 states. All but five of the 106 confirmed cases were in children ages 18 and under.