CDC advisers criticize agency's response to polio-like illness affecting children

Medical advisers at the CDC are criticizing the agency's slow response to address concerns about acute flaccid myelitis, a polio-like condition that has affected hundreds of children over the past several years, according to CNN.

Acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is characterized by a sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes, according to CBS News. In some cases, the condition may lead to paralysis and even death. CDC data indicates there have been 396 confirmed cases of AFM since 2014. This year, officials have counted 72 confirmed cases and another 119 possible cases are under investigation.

Here are four things to know:

1. Keith Van Haren, MD, an AFM adviser for the CDC and assistant professor of neurology at the Stanford (Calif.) University School of Medicine, told CNN many members of the healthcare community are "frustrated and disappointed" by the CDC's response to the disease. Specifically, Dr. Van Haren claimed the agency has been slow to gather data and to guide physicians on how to diagnose and treat children with the condition.

2. During a press briefing earlier this month, the CDC said it has yet to determine the cause of the outbreaks and admitted the agency could do more to spread information about the disease.

3. While the agency has not reached out directly to hospitals about the condition, it has reportedly reached out to more than 6,000 healthcare experts across local, state and federal agencies, according to CNN.

4. CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, confirmed during an interview with CBS News scheduled to air Oct. 30 the agency is still unclear about the cause of the outbreaks, but that the CDC has created a task force to uncover more information. He said the condition does not appear to be transmissible through human contact.

"CDC's been working very hard on this, since 2014, to try to understand causation and etiology. As we sit here today, we don't have understanding of the cause. … I've recently asked again to put together a task force to really try to look at where we're at, and what else could we do to try to solve this problem. The good news is that it doesn't appear to be transmissible from human to human. We don't see clustering in families," Dr. Redfield said.

"I do think that this is a new occurrence in the United States, the AFM," he added. "Our suspicion is it's caused by a single agent. That's the dominant disease that we're confronting right now."

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