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

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Confirmed Cases: 39589

Reported Deaths: 1523
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12703789
Ramsey5013230
Dakota247993
Stearns242919
Anoka2293110
Nobles16726
Olmsted116817
Washington116340
Mower9652
Rice8598
Scott7834
Clay59538
Kandiyohi5821
Blue Earth5102
Wright4925
Carver4171
Todd4022
Lyon3272
Sherburne3275
Freeborn2980
Watonwan2400
Steele2391
Benton2213
St. Louis19816
Nicollet17612
Martin1715
Cottonwood1370
Goodhue1328
Winona13115
Le Sueur1101
Pine1100
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Chisago1021
Otter Tail1001
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Waseca710
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Murray660
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Morrison611
Faribault600
Becker570
Jackson550
Sibley552
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Renville362
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Mille Lacs342
Rock310
Fillmore300
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Houston280
Swift231
Norman210
Wilkin213
Redwood200
Cass192
Big Stone170
Grant170
Koochiching171
Roseau170
Aitkin150
Kanabec151
Wadena150
Marshall120
Pope120
Lincoln110
Mahnomen101
Clearwater90
Hubbard80
Lake60
Stevens60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle40
Red Lake40
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 32533

Reported Deaths: 735
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6827181
Woodbury326444
Black Hawk235558
Buena Vista172411
Johnson13638
Linn132382
Dallas129829
Marshall106319
Scott88310
Story8194
Dubuque77122
Pottawattamie75812
Wapello71231
Crawford6793
Muscatine67544
Sioux4880
Tama47329
Wright3881
Louisa36313
Jasper32917
Plymouth3275
Warren2971
Dickinson2823
Webster2524
Washington2479
Cerro Gordo2011
Hamilton1921
Boone1571
Clay1421
Allamakee1354
Clarke1343
Mahaska11817
Shelby1170
Clinton1151
Poweshiek1078
Carroll1041
Pocahontas1011
Bremer987
Franklin980
Des Moines942
Emmet910
Henry883
Cedar851
Hardin830
Taylor810
Cherokee791
Monona770
Floyd742
Marion740
Benton691
Guthrie694
Jones650
Osceola640
Sac640
Jefferson620
Iowa611
Buchanan601
Butler602
Humboldt571
Calhoun552
Hancock541
Harrison540
Lee542
Delaware531
Fayette520
Monroe517
Madison492
Lyon470
Clayton463
Mills430
Winneshiek430
Davis421
Palo Alto420
Mitchell410
Grundy400
Howard370
Jackson370
Kossuth370
Union360
Lucas314
Winnebago300
Chickasaw290
Greene290
Cass240
Ida230
Appanoose213
Van Buren210
Keokuk201
Page200
Unassigned200
Worth200
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Audubon161
Ringgold150
Decatur120
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