Mysterious New Condition That Causes Paralysis In Children Has Experts Stumped, and Incidents Are On The Rise


The headlines began in 2014: Formerly healthy children contracted what seemed to be a minor upper respiratory infection and were suddenly paralyzed — sometimes one limb, sometimes multiple limbs, sometimes permanently.

Parents and experts wondered if it could be a brand-new virus, West Nile disease, or even a mutated version of polio, which hadn’t been seen in the U.S. since the late 1970s.

They were wrong.

While the 2014 cases included only a handful of children, as of late October there are now 155 patients under investigation — up from 127 a week prior — for what experts have now identified as acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a condition affecting the nervous system and striking mainly children. The average age of an AFM patient is 4 years old.

Though the condition is still rare, affecting fewer than 1 in a million and occurring mainly in the late summer and fall, scientists still aren’t sure what causes it. There isn’t any significant geographical clustering, and while enterovirus — which typically causes mild coldlike symptoms — has been detected in some cases, experts don’t have enough information to formally single it out as the culprit. Adding to the mystery, the number of cases seems to be cyclical, peaking every other year. Some experts believe this is further evidence of an enterovirus involvement, since one particular strain, D68, is also known to have biannual cycles.

“We have seen an every-other-year pattern in late summer to early fall of a surge in cases in acute flaccid myelitis,” Kevin Messacar, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, told USA Today. “It directly correlates with the time D68 has been circulating at our institution and reported by colleagues in other parts of the country.”  

Messacar told USA Today he also believes the number of cases to be much higher than the number reported by the CDC.

While some children eventually make a complete recovery from AFM, others do not; cases have also been reported where multiple children in the same household will fall ill simultaneously with what seems to be a cold, but only one develops AFM, further complicating the puzzle for health experts.

"We don't know a lot about the long-term prognosis of AFM right now. That's something that we're still really learning about," pediatric rehabilitation physician Dr. Laura Jones, who is currently caring for a 2-year-old whose bout with AFM has left her confined to a wheelchair, told CNN. "We know that some kids have great recovery and recover really quickly, and other kids continue to have a lot of weakness going forward, but we haven't determined what factors decide which kids fall into which category yet."

Doctors say it’s important for terrified parents to remember that the disease is still exceedingly rare, but to be sure to seek immediate medical attention if a child suddenly develops weakness in his or her arms or legs, as AFM is “potentially devastating,” Messacar said. “We haven’t seen cases of permanent paralysis like this since the era of the polio virus. Even though these cases are uncommon, they’re potentially life-changing and can lead to lifelong illness. It should be taken seriously.”

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The United States, unlike North Korea and other nations President Donald Trump admires, does not have an official state media channel where the federal government can push propaganda.

But since his 2016 campaign, Trump has spoken as though he does have an official state media in Fox News.

Keep reading...
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Retired General John Kelly served as President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff until late 2018, and now he's siding against Trump on a crucial point.

Former National Security Advisor John Bolton's allegations in his upcoming memoir have rocked the impeachment trial in the Senate. Bolton claims Trump sought to withhold aid from Ukraine until it acquiesced to performing politically beneficial investigations for Trump's reelection bid.

Keep reading...

As calls continue to grow for former National Security Advisor John Bolton to testify before the Senate in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is feeling left out.

Demands for Bolton's testimony skyrocketed among the public after allegations in his upcoming memoir that Trump sought to withhold Ukrainian aid as late as September to secure foreign investigations into Trump's political rivals.

Keep reading...
Fox News

Explosive allegations from an upcoming memoir by former National Security Advisor John Bolton are strengthening the case for additional witnesses at the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

According to Bolton's manuscript, the President sought as recently as September to withhold $391 million in congressionally approved aid to Ukraine until its President announced investigations into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Keep reading...
Scott Olson/Getty Images // Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The defense team in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial spent its second day of arguments defending Rudy Giuliani, bashing House Democrats, and ignoring bombshell developments regarding former National Security Advisor John Bolton that broke in the days before.

The team went after a familiar target in a performance that was likely for an audience of one: Donald Trump.

Keep reading...

Ken Starr, a conservative pundit and frequent Fox News guest, is best known for his dogged attacks to find impeachable offenses by President Bill Clinton during a multi-year investigation into every aspect of the Clinton family's lives.

In the end, Starr found an extramarital affair which was used to impeach Clinton and that Clinton lied under oath about his personal life.

Keep reading...