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And for now, it's hard to say if 2018 will equal or surpass spikes seen in 2014 and 2016, Messonnier said, adding that state and federal health officials haven't finished the whole diagnostic algorithm for numerous cases reported over the past several weeks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating whether these children are infected with acute flaccid myelitis, a rare neurological illness. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of 127 patients with symptoms of the disease this year.

There is now no cure for AFM, known cause in most cases, or clear explanation for why some people who contract the enterovirus experience symptoms and others do not.

"CDC has been actively investigating AFM, testing specimens and monitoring disease since 2014, when we first saw an increase in cases", Messonnier said. Another spike came in 2016.

In addition to viruses, potential causes may include environmental toxins and genetic disorders, according to the CDC, and it "can be hard to diagnose because it shares numerous same symptoms as other neurologic diseases". "We actually don't know what's causing this increase", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, of the CDC. However, none of the USA patients tested positive for polio, and, according to Dr. Messonnier, none of this year's cases have been linked to West Nile virus. It attacks the spinal cord and nervous system and causes weakness or temporary paralysis in the arms and legs. "Children can also have trouble swallowing, trouble with their speech, facial droop, trouble with their eye muscles".

Some patients recover quickly, while others experience paralysis and require ongoing care. Seven children have been affected in that state.




The CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide variety of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM. The CDC says an outbreak in 2014 seemed to coincide with an outbreak of enterovirus D68, however the virus wasn't found in every AFM patient. There was one death of a child who had AFM, in 2017, said Messonnier.

More broadly, she noted, "there is a lot we don't know about AFM". Sixty-two cases are confirmed.

In 1954, 1.8 million children participated in the Salk polio vaccine trials.

She recommended that parents take routine protections against viral infections, such as keeping up to date on immunizations, washing hands, and avoiding mosquito bites.

The Douglas County Health Department's Phil Rooney said, "This is not a diagnosis like flu or other diseases where you can do blood draw fluids".

How can AFM be treated?

States are reporting their cases to the CDC, Messonnier said.


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