CDC failed to report 2 polio-like illness deaths, parents say

The parents of two children who died from acute flaccid myelitis — the rare, polio-like illness affecting children across the U.S. — allege the CDC failed to publicly report their children's deaths, according to CNN.

Here are six things to know:

1. Five-year-old Carter Roberts lost his two-year battle with AFM in September, and 6-year-old Alex Bustamante died from the illness in May. Both boys contracted the illness in 2016.

2. Carter and Alex's parents are accusing the CDC of hiding their sons' deaths to intentionally downplay the severity of the illness.

"I feel like they're just sugar-coating this," Alex's mother, Katie Bustamante, told CNN. "It eliminates my trust in the CDC."

3. Ms. Bustamante said a physician reported Alex's death to the California Department of Public Health, but she does not know if the information reached the CDC. Federal paperwork about Carter's death was sent to the Virginia Department of Health, where an epidemiologist confirmed Carter's information reached the agency, according to Sanjai Rao, DO, assistant professor of pediatric neurology at Children's Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University, who treated Carter.

4. Neither set of parents know whether the CDC ever accepted their sons' illnesses as official AFM cases in 2016, according to CNN. The agency does not list any deaths linked to AFM on its surveillance page. However, Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a recent press conference that the agency knew of one death in 2017.

5. Anne Schuchat, MD, principal deputy director of the CDC, said she could not comment on the boys' specific cases, but said there could be a lag in reported cases reaching the CDC.

"I think we want to catch up with the backlog. Even the past week we've expanded the number of disease detectives on the program," she told CNN. "I certainly want to make sure the information that we have is shared as quickly as possible."

6. At present, the CDC has confirmed 90 AFM cases this year across 26 states. The agency is investigating another 162 potential cases. The exact cause of the illness is still unknown.

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