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CDC launches task force for polio-like disease as number of cases increases

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a task force to respond to the growing number of cases of acute flaccid myelitis. (Image source: Video screenshot)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a task force to aid in the investigation of Acute Flaccid Myelitis, a polio-like illness that has affected a growing number of children across 29 states.

CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield announced Monday that the task force of scientific, medical, and public health experts would work to find the cause of Acute Flaccid Myelitis along with ways to improve treatment and outcomes for patients.

“I want to reaffirm to parents, patients, and our Nation CDC’s commitment to this serious medical condition,” Redfield said in a news release. “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's escalated response followed an increased number of AFM reports in August, September, and October.

What is Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

AFM is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, which causes weakness in one or more limbs, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes,
  • Facial droop/weakness,
  • Difficulty moving the eyes,
  • Drooping eyelids, or
  • Difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

In all but five cases, the illness has struck children 18 and younger.

While the disease is not new, the number of cases has increased since 2014.

How many cases have there been?

There have been 106 confirmed cases of AFM and another 167 possible cases this year, according to the CDC.

Last year, there were 33 cases that occurred in 16 states. Since 2014, there have been 430 confirmed cases of AFM.

What else?

The task force is expected to submit its first report on Dec. 6, according to the release.

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