Disease Called 'Our Generation's Polio' Stumps Doctors as Cases Rise


Scientists are baffled by a new disease that some are comparing to polio.

First discovered in 2012, acute flaccid myelitis has spiked in the number of cases, spreading slowly across the United States.

“This is our generation’s polio,” the mother of one of the disease’s victims said, according to Time.

The disease causes sudden and severe inflammation in the spinal tissue of those affected, resulting in paralysis in the neck, face and diaphragm as well as the limbs of those suffering from AFM.

Many doctors and scientists alike agree that the disease resembles polio and is somewhat similar to meningitis and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

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The disease still remains fairly rare, with only a single person affected in a million in most years. However, in the past seven years, it has been affecting and killing more people.

AFM is classified as a seasonal disease similar to polio, although unlike polio it usually hits during the late summer and early fall. Another odd occurrence for the disease is that it peaks during even-numbered years.

In 2014, there were 120 confirmed cases of AFM, while in 2015 there were only 22. The pattern showed itself in 2016 when 153 cases of the mystery disease were documented, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The next odd-numbered year showed a similar falling pattern as 2015, with only 37 cases confirmed in 2017. And sticking with the pattern, 2018 showed to be the highest year for the disease yet, with 236 confirmed cases.

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“I can’t think of a single disease that had this pattern that we’re seeing, with modern laboratory diagnostics not figuring it out,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Similar to the medical call to arms in the 1930’s through 50’s for polio, the CDC has formed a task force to help eradicate AFM.

The team consists of 17 neurologists, pediatricians and epidemiologists, as well as other medical experts from health departments and teaching hospitals from 10 states, with help also coming from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The task force’s first meeting occurred in December 2018, when doctors and scientists filled a conference table to the brim in hopes of taking down the deadly disease.

“This is obviously complicated or we wouldn’t be in this place,” Messonnier acknowledged.

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One of the reasons that fighting AFM has become such a desperate endeavor is that the median age for the victims of the disease has steadily dropped from seven to four and a half.

And unlike other regular child diseases like chickenpox and measles, which can be found in the bloodstream, AFM may incubate in the gut.

While the CDC is attempting to stop the outbreak before it ever reaches a peak, scientists and doctors continue to be baffled by the disease and no major progress has been made.

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Zach Ferguson is a writer with expertise in the fields of Communication, Digital Marketing and Entertainment.
Zach Ferguson is a writer with expertise in the fields of Communication, Digital Marketing and Entertainment. Besides writing, Zach enjoys entrepreneurial ventures such as podcasting, brand creation and Instagram marketing. He is also the Network Communications Director for his church.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Bachelors in Communications
Grove City College Class of 2017
Phoenix, Arizona
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