On Nov. 19, 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the creation of the Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) Task Force aimed at looking for the cause of AFM—a mysterious polio-like illness that involves inflammation of the spinal cord and primarily paralyzes healthy children—and improving treatment and outcomes for individuals suffering with AFM. This new group will bring together individuals from different “scientific, medical, and public health disciplines” to address the growing number of AFM cases in the United States.1
Earlier this week, the CDC confirmed a total of 116 cases of AFM in 31 states and another 170 possible cases are being investigated. That is 10 more AFM cases than the agency confirmed last week and 26 more cases than it confirmed two weeks ago.2 3 4 5
The states with the most number of confirmed AFM cases are Colorado with 15 and Texas with 14. The states of Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington each account for eight confirmed cases. Illinois has seven confirmed cases. New Jersey and Wisconsin each have six confirmed cases. The remaining states with confirmed cases of AFM include Alabama (3), Arkansas (3), Georgia (3), Maryland (3), Iowa (2), Kentucky (2), Massachusetts (2), New York (2), North Carolina, South Carolina (2), Arizona (1), Indiana (1), Louisiana (1), Mississippi (1), Missouri (1), Montana (1), Nevada (1), New Mexico (1), Oklahoma (1), Rhode Island (1), Virginia (1) and Wyoming (1).2
According to the CDC, “The Task Force will convene under the CDC’s Office of Infectious Diseases’ Board of Scientific Counselors (BSC), and will make key recommendations to inform and strengthen CDC’s response to this urgent public health concern. It will be coordinated by the Office of the Director and is scheduled to submit its first report at the BSC’s December 6, 2018, public meeting in Atlanta.”1
“This Task Force will ensure that the full capacity of the scientific community is engaged and working together to provide important answers and solutions to actively detect, more effectively treat, and ultimately prevent AFM and its consequences,” said CDC director Robert Redfield, MD.1
While the cause of AFM remains a mystery, Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases recently said that AFM “seems to be more of an autoimmune syndrome, as opposed to a direct result of a virus.” She has also compared AFM to what happens with the autoimmune neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome, in which the immune system attacks healthy nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system.7 8
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (press release). CDC Establishes AFM Task Force. CDC.gov Nov. 19, 2018.
2 CDC. AFM Investigation. CDC.gov.
3 Goldschmidt D. AFM: CDC identifies 31 states with 116 confirmed cases of polio-like disease. CNN Nov. 26, 2018.
4 Welch A. CDC confirms more cases of rare, paralyzing illness AFM in kids. CBS News Nov. 13, 2018.
5 Cáceres M. Under Siege by Critics, CDC Moves to Blame a Virus for Polio-like Cases of AFM. The Vaccine Reaction Nov. 14, 2018.
6 Sun LH. Experts chase the cause of a paralyzing childhood disease spiking this year. The Washington Post Nov. 13, 2018.
7 Cáceres M. AFM Compared to Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The Vaccine Reaction Nov. 21, 2018.