BREAKING NEWS Finally Feeling Like Fall Full Story

Survivor of rare polio-like illness shares her story

In 2014, Lydia Pilarowski was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis. While some children never fully recover from AFM, Lydia has improved steadily over the last four years.

Posted: Oct 18, 2018 7:26 PM
Updated: Oct 18, 2018 7:47 PM

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of 127 patients under investigation for acute flaccid myelitis this year. Of these, 62 have been confirmed by the CDC, and the remainder continue to be investigated, said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the agency's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. noting that the confirmed cases are in 22 states.

Acute flaccid myelitis, also called AFM, is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system and causes the muscles and reflexes to suddenly become weak, she said Tuesday. Specifically, the disease affects the area of the spinal cord called gray matter. Because the symptoms are similar, AFM is often confused with polio, a crippling and potentially fatal disease that is caused by a virus.

The overall rate of AFM is fewer than one in a million, she said.

An average age of 4

The average age of the patients in all confirmed cases over the past five years is just 4 years old, and more than 90% of the cases overall occur in children 18 and younger, according to analysis of cases reported in recent years. Though AFM has not claimed any lives this year, there was one death in 2017.

"CDC has been actively investigating AFM, testing specimens and monitoring disease since 2014, when we first saw an increase in cases," Messonnier said. "Most AFM cases occur in the late summer and fall,." which she referred to as "seasonal clustering." No geographic clustering has been found and there is no other "unifying factor to explain the peaks," she added.

While AFM is not unique to the US, Messonnier said, "no one else has seen seasonal clustering every other year."

"We have not been able to find a cause for the majority of these AFM cases," she said. "Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause of these AFM cases. CDC has tested every stool specimen from every AFM patient. None of the specimens have tested positive for poliovirus."

AFM may be caused by other viruses, including enterovirus, environmental toxins and a condition in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys tissue that it mistakes for foreign material, Messonnier said: "This is a mystery so far, and we haven't solved it yet, so we have to be thinking broadly."

More broadly, she noted, "there is a lot we don't know about AFM."

For example, the CDC doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or why some are at higher risk, she said. The public health agency also does not fully understand long-term consequences or why some patients recover quickly while others continue to experience weakness.

'On track' with previous years

On Monday, CNN reached out to health departments in every state and received responses from 48 states plus the District of Columbia. CNN found 47 confirmed cases and 49 more that were suspected or being investigated, for a total of 96 cases in 30 states in 2018. Fifteen states said they'd confirmed cases this year.

Asked about the discrepancy between the CDC's report of 22 states versus CNN's report of 30 states with cases, Messonnier said, "the 22 states that we're reporting are the states that have confirmed cases. There's going to be a delay, a lag in the timing of some of these reports."

The CDC is not saying how many states have patients under investigation, only that it's more than 22.

She added that confirmation of each case requires a review of MRI images and symptoms, "so there is going to be a bit of a lag as we confirm those things."

States are reporting their cases to the CDC, Messonnier said. Although it is too early to understand how the current season compares to previous ones, she noted, the nation is "on track with what was seen in 2014 and 2016" and will probably have the same number of cases.

The CDC received information on 33 confirmed cases of AFM across 16 states in 2017, 149 cases in 39 states In 2016, 22 across 17 states in 2015 and 120 across 34 states in 2014.

"This is a pretty dramatic disease," Messonnier said. With the sudden onset of weakness, patients are "generally seeking medical care" and being evaluated by neurologists, infectious disease doctors and pediatricians. "We think the majority of cases are coming to our attention."

The CDC urges parents to be aware of this illness and to seek medical care right away if family members develop sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms or legs.

The agency also said it will post case count updates on its website every week now, a change from the monthly updates it had been giving.

"As we work to better understand what's causing AFM, parents can help protect their children by washing your hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites," Messonnier said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 497790

Reported Deaths: 9917
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34102530
DeSoto31839398
Hinds31837622
Jackson24314377
Rankin21881388
Lee15427234
Madison14525279
Jones13772241
Forrest13412250
Lauderdale11937314
Lowndes10934185
Lamar10470135
Pearl River9431237
Lafayette8454138
Hancock7697126
Washington7365156
Oktibbeha7111129
Monroe6727174
Warren6642176
Pontotoc6609101
Neshoba6606205
Panola6460131
Marshall6386132
Bolivar6266145
Union596094
Pike5784152
Alcorn5633101
Lincoln5417134
George491879
Scott470998
Tippah465381
Prentiss464181
Leflore4627143
Itawamba4596104
Adams4570119
Tate4546109
Copiah445191
Simpson4421116
Wayne438572
Yazoo438586
Covington427394
Marion4216107
Sunflower4215104
Coahoma4115104
Leake407787
Newton380879
Grenada3692108
Stone358464
Tishomingo356391
Attala330289
Jasper328265
Winston313191
Clay306375
Chickasaw296767
Clarke290694
Calhoun277945
Holmes266987
Smith262550
Yalobusha232647
Tallahatchie225251
Walthall217763
Greene215548
Lawrence211140
Perry204755
Amite203954
Webster201645
Noxubee185340
Montgomery179056
Jefferson Davis170642
Carroll167438
Tunica158639
Benton147438
Kemper141241
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131237
Humphreys129038
Franklin119128
Quitman106227
Wilkinson104539
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 813481

Reported Deaths: 15179
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1139971910
Mobile722271323
Madison51970686
Shelby37279341
Baldwin37069540
Tuscaloosa34934599
Montgomery33953725
Lee23142240
Calhoun22142470
Morgan20639372
Etowah19758496
Marshall18245300
Houston17302405
St. Clair15912337
Cullman15306290
Limestone15202198
Elmore15075284
Lauderdale14143294
Talladega13715272
DeKalb12569259
Walker11085366
Blount10094174
Autauga9893146
Jackson9789180
Coffee9182189
Dale8859181
Colbert8789200
Tallapoosa7044195
Escambia6732127
Covington6682179
Chilton6587160
Russell625958
Franklin5930105
Chambers5559142
Marion4955126
Dallas4882199
Clarke472782
Pike4719105
Geneva4564126
Winston4473101
Lawrence4264117
Bibb421686
Barbour355475
Marengo334089
Monroe330262
Randolph327063
Butler324794
Pickens313882
Henry310965
Hale309187
Cherokee299957
Fayette290679
Washington250951
Cleburne246958
Crenshaw243575
Clay240367
Macon230562
Lamar215846
Conecuh185652
Coosa178538
Lowndes173761
Wilcox167438
Bullock151744
Perry138040
Sumter131038
Greene125544
Choctaw86927
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A cold front passing through our area overnight will bring into our area some of the coolest temperatures of the season so far. We will see most of the highs this weekend only in the upper 60s to lower 70s. While overnight lows will drop off down into the 40s Saturday night.
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