It has been reported by the health officials that the cause behind a paralytic condition that has been affecting the US children over the last five years still remains a mystery. The researchers at U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have suspected the culprit to be a kind of virus. However the specific germ which causes the outbreak is still not known.
This condition which is called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is under the investigation by CDC for the last few years. It is a rare type of disease in which the tissues of the spinal cord are affected which leads to the weakening of reflexes and muscles. The arms and the legs are mainly affected by AFM and the muscles supporting breathing are also impaired. The condition began to be monitored closely by CDC in 2014 after witnessing a surge in the number of cases. Since this the AFM outbreak took a clear pattern in US, which is in every 2 years between the months of August-October and was seen completely in the children. 235 cases had been reported by CDC in 2018 and this year 20 has been confirmed.
Dr. Janell Routh who works under CDC’s division of viral diseases, said that enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) has been found to be the main suspect. These are usually harmless groups of viruses. But 2014 saw a severe outbreak of respiratory illness which was caused by EV-d68 and this coincided with AFM’s first surge. The spinal fluid samples were taken from most of the children and virus coxsackievirus was found in only one of the samples. Another sample showed presence of EV-D68.
Nearly 285 of the samples gave positives for rhinovirus or enterovirus. About 69% of respiratory samples turned positive for the presence of the virus EV-D68. Researchers are trying to find the cause of the condition if AFM surge is driven by a viral infection, if the nerve cells are directly impacted or if the nerve cells are damaged by abnormal immune response that is triggered by the virus.
The main signs of AFM include weakness in arms or the legs, loss of one’s muscle tone or a droop in any side of face or eyelids. Preventive steps should be taken if one is diagnosed with the viral infection. These include regular washing of hands, staying isolated, sneezing or coughing into arm and not hand.