CDC detects seasonal pattern to polio-like illness, local experts urge parents not to panic

The local medical community says it’s working with the health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to figure out what’s causing a rare but serious illness affecting kids.

Action News Jax was first to report the first local case of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, so far this year in Jacksonville.

Dr. Mobeen Rathore, chief of infectious diseases at Wolfson Children’s Hospital said this isn’t cause for panic but parents should be aware.

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“Not knowing what causes it and not knowing how to treat it,” said Dr. Rathore.

That was Dr. Rathore’s response when asked what frustrates him the most about AFM.

According to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, most AFM cases occur in late summer and fall.

“As far as we know it has only been detected in the United States. In terms of clustering in the United States, many states in the U.S. have been impacted by this disease, so we are not seeing geographic clustering in 2018, nor have we seen it in 2016 or 2014,” said Dr. Messonnier.

Aamira Faircloth, 3, is in fair condition at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Her mom Reba told us Tuesday how her daughter suddenly couldn’t walk.

“It was just like how a baby learns to walk and she collapsed and fell to the ground,” said Reba.

“The good news is we know it’s not polio but unfortunately it’s still happening, it almost looks like every other year, and still affecting children,” said Dr. Rathore.

The CDC started detecting the increases in 2014. Since then there have been 386 cases.

So far this year, the CDC has confirmed 62 cases in 22 states, and it has received reports of 127 patients who are under investigation.

“Whether you can see one, two or three more cases, it’s possible, but there’s not an outbreak,” said Dr. Rathore.

The Action News Jax Facebook post about the illness received hundreds of comments, including one from Christina Strickland, who wrote that in 2012 she woke up one morning to find her son “crying laying on the floor screaming in pain that he couldn’t walk.”

Other parents on the thread blamed vaccinations.

“Absolutely not, there is no evidence, there’s absolutely no evidence that vaccines have anything to do with this,” said Dr. Rathore.

According to Dr. Rathore, there’s also no evidence that AFM is caused by the flu shot.

He said there is something parents can do right now.

“Good hand hygiene, good cough etiquette, stay away from people who are sick,” said Dr. Rathore.

The CDC knows of one death in 2017 in a child who had AFM. The disease remains very rare, however, with less than a million people being diagnosed with it since 2014.

However, it’s not mandatory for health providers to report AFM, so it’s possible there could be more cases locally or statewide.

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