CDC unveils task force to combat rising polio-like illness cases

The CDC created the Acute Flaccid Myelitis Task Force that will focus on bolstering the investigation into the current spate of AFM cases.

As of Nov. 19, there were 106 cases of AFM across 29 states in the U.S. The number of probable cases has increased from 127 as of Oct. 17 to 167 as of Nov. 19. 

The task force, which will convene under CDC's Office of Infectious Diseases' Board of Scientific Counselors, will include experts from the scientific, medical and public health arenas. They will offer recommendations to the Board of Scientific Counselors to advance the agency's response to the outbreak.

"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 R. Redfield, MD.

AFM affects the nervous system, specifically the gray matter of the spinal cord, causing the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak. The symptoms are similar to complications of infection with certain viruses, including poliovirus; however, all AFM patients have tested negative for poliovirus. AFM has thus far primarily affected children and the cause of the illness is still unknown.

"In general, we have a list of hypotheses, and based on the epidemiology, the fact that most states in the United States have had cases of AFM, toxins are certainly lower on our list of causes. But we're not ruling anything out at this point," said Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a Nov. 13 briefing.

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