Record count reported for mysterious paralyzing illness

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This year has seen a record number of cases of a mysterious paralyzing illness in children, U.S. health officials said Monday.

Posted: Dec 10, 2018 2:48 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — This year has seen a record number of cases of a mysterious paralyzing illness in children, U.S. health officials said Monday.

It's still not clear what's causing the kids to lose the ability to move their face, neck, back, arms or legs. The symptoms tend to occur about a week after the children had a fever and respiratory illness.

No one has died from the rare disease this year, but it was blamed for one death last year and it may have caused others in the past.

What's more, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say many children have lasting paralysis. And close to half the kids diagnosed with it this year were admitted to hospital intensive care units and hooked up to machines to help them breathe.

The condition has been likened to polio, a dreaded paralyzing illness that once struck tens of thousands of U.S. children a year. Those outbreaks ended after a polio vaccine became available in the 1950s. Investigators of the current outbreak have ruled out polio, finding no evidence of that virus in recent cases.

The current mystery can be traced to 2012, when three cases of limb weakness were seen in California. The first real wave of confirmed illnesses was seen in 2014, when 120 were reported. Another, larger wave occurred in 2016, when there were 149 confirmed cases. So far this year, there have been 158 confirmed cases.

In 2015 and 2017, the counts were far lower, and it's not clear why.

The condition is called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM. Investigators have suspected it is caused by a virus called EV-D68. The 2014 wave coincided with a lot of EV-D68 infections and the virus "remains the leading hypothesis," said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, a member of a 16-person AFM Task Force that the CDC established last month to offer advice to disease detectives.

But there is disagreement about how strong a suspect EV-D68 is. Waves of AFM and that virus haven't coincided in other years, and testing is not finding the virus in every case. CDC officials have been increasingly cautious about saying the virus triggered the illnesses in this outbreak.

Indeed, EV-D68 infections are not new in kids, and many Americans carry antibodies against it.

Why would the virus suddenly be causing these paralyzing illnesses?

"This is a key question that has confounded us," said the CDC's Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who is overseeing the agency's outbreak investigation.

Experts also said it's not clear why cases are surging in two-year cycles.

Another mystery: More than 17 countries have reported scattered AFM cases, but none have seen cyclical surges like the U.S. has.

When there has been a wave in the U.S., cases spiked in September and tailed off significantly by November. Last week, CDC officials said the problem had peaked, but they warned that the number of cases would go up as investigators evaluated — and decided whether to count — illnesses that occurred earlier.

As of Monday, there were 311 illness reports still being evaluated.

This year's confirmed cases are spread among 36 states. The states with the most are Texas, with 21, and Colorado, 15.

But it's not clear if the state tallies truly represent where illnesses have been happening. For example, the numbers in Colorado may be high at least partly because it was in the scene of an attention-grabbing 2014 outbreak, and so doctors there may be doing a better job doing things that can lead to a diagnosis.

For an illness to be counted, the diagnosis must include an MRI scan that shows lesions in the part of the spinal cord that controls muscles.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 450762

Reported Deaths: 6079
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin935111486
Ramsey40220742
Dakota33243348
Anoka31118366
Washington20282231
Stearns17957188
St. Louis13777244
Scott1203597
Wright11688106
Olmsted1062075
Sherburne823966
Carver698338
Clay654681
Rice613969
Kandiyohi555772
Blue Earth544833
Crow Wing486877
Otter Tail459367
Chisago455036
Benton421587
Winona391948
Douglas376666
Nobles372446
Mower369429
Goodhue351259
Polk330059
McLeod326546
Beltrami313248
Morrison312945
Lyon303338
Becker286939
Itasca285943
Isanti283241
Carlton282243
Steele275810
Pine267814
Freeborn249523
Todd232530
Nicollet226437
Brown215834
Mille Lacs214745
Le Sueur211716
Cass208424
Meeker200633
Waseca190716
Wabasha17293
Martin171326
Roseau166117
Hubbard149938
Redwood140627
Houston139014
Renville137840
Dodge13624
Chippewa131732
Cottonwood127818
Fillmore12535
Wadena120417
Rock110612
Sibley10897
Aitkin108533
Faribault107416
Watonwan10678
Pennington100315
Kanabec98018
Pipestone95523
Yellow Medicine93916
Murray8995
Jackson86310
Swift83818
Pope7425
Marshall70315
Stevens7038
Clearwater68614
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake65615
Wilkin6299
Koochiching59910
Lincoln4892
Big Stone4663
Unassigned43968
Grant4298
Norman4248
Mahnomen4137
Kittson37220
Red Lake3184
Traverse2553
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1150

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 308737

Reported Deaths: 4391
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46313460
Linn17916278
Scott15694167
Black Hawk13964242
Woodbury13064179
Johnson1220051
Dubuque11504157
Pottawattamie9086114
Dallas901872
Story875536
Webster470677
Cerro Gordo469972
Sioux458757
Clinton455065
Warren452039
Marshall429262
Buena Vista395230
Muscatine393078
Des Moines389243
Plymouth352269
Wapello347598
Jasper328559
Lee321132
Marion307252
Jones272949
Henry265831
Carroll257434
Bremer248048
Crawford233124
Washington221333
Boone221017
Benton210950
Mahaska196337
Jackson193931
Tama189559
Dickinson188129
Kossuth177744
Delaware174736
Clay170721
Wright166024
Fayette164123
Buchanan161023
Hamilton161030
Winneshiek159120
Harrison157362
Hardin156130
Cedar154419
Clayton153049
Butler149824
Page145415
Floyd140536
Cherokee139527
Mills138016
Lyon137033
Poweshiek134124
Hancock130824
Allamakee130029
Iowa126722
Calhoun12309
Grundy121927
Jefferson121625
Madison12169
Winnebago120829
Mitchell116436
Louisa115530
Cass114743
Chickasaw113312
Appanoose111540
Emmet111232
Sac111215
Union110223
Humboldt105819
Shelby104027
Guthrie103624
Franklin103118
Unassigned10000
Palo Alto91411
Montgomery87224
Keokuk85826
Howard84819
Monroe81419
Clarke8017
Pocahontas77811
Ida75430
Davis69721
Greene6977
Adair69320
Lucas6619
Monona65017
Osceola64510
Worth6154
Taylor5969
Fremont5206
Van Buren49914
Decatur4944
Ringgold44611
Audubon4188
Wayne41721
Adams2983
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