Arizona Has Had At Least Eight Cases Of Mysterious, Polio-Like Disease

Researchers do not know the cause of acute flaccid myelitis but said appears to be linked to some viruses, and said that one way parents can keep kids safe is by making sure their immunizations are up to date, among other healthy habits. (Photo from NIAID/Creative Commons)

By Renata Cló

WASHINGTON – Talen Spitzer was a healthy 10-year-old kid from Queen Creek a little more than two years ago when, in a matter of minutes, he lost control of his muscles and his hands were paralyzed.

His mother, Rochelle Spitzer, said doctors did not know what was wrong with him at first because everything else seemed normal. But when scans at the hospital later showed lesions on his spine, he was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, an extremely rare polio-like “mystery disease.”

Talen was one of eight patients in Arizona since 2014 who have been confirmed victims of the disease, which has no known cause.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week said it has confirmed a total of 386 cases of the disease, known as AFM, in at least 38 states and the District of Columbia since 2014, when it first surfaced in the Midwest. There have been 62 cases confirmed in 22 states so far this year, the CDC said.

The disease primarily affects the young, causing weakness in muscles and paralysis in the lower limbs that eventually start rising toward the chest, according to Dr. Sean Elliott, professor of pediatrics at University of Arizona.

“They (patients) many times are not able to walk, they are unable to move onto legs very effectively, many are unable to even talk effectively,” Elliott said. “The worst patients have had difficulty in breathing because, of course, we breathe using muscles as well.”

Talen Spitzer was hospitalized two years ago with what turned out to be acute flaccid myelitis. The Queen Creek youth is almost fully recovered now, his mother said. (Photo courtesy Rochelle Spitzer)

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a conference call Tuesday that AFM is a fairly new disease and that there is still a lot to learn about it.

Scientists do not know what causes it, how it spreads or even its long-term effects, Messonier said, according to a transcript of the call. They know it is not caused by the polio virus, even though its victims suffer polio-like symptoms, but that it has been linked to other viruses, including West Nile and enterovirus, and environmental factors.

Researchers do know that rates spike in the fall and that more than 90 percent of cases are in children 18 or younger. But Messonier said she is “frustrated that despite all of our efforts,” researchers have not been able to find a cause.

Despite that, she said there are simple steps parents can take to protect their kids, including making sure children wash their hands, use bug spray and stay up to date on their vaccines.

She also urged “parents to seek medical care right away if you or your child develop sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms or legs.”

Recovery is mixed. Elliot said there’s no specific treatment for the disease, and that many patients recover spontaneously. The ones who don’t “have a long road ahead of them with physical therapy, rehab,” he said.

Messonier said she only knows of one patient who had AFM and died in 2017. But Elliott said it appears that patients can die of complications caused by it and not the disease itself.

“If one is unable to breathe and does not get medical care, then yes, the death is due to respiratory failure,” he said. “The illness itself … seems to not cause death.”

During the worse part of his disease, Talen was prescribed with steroids and started undergoing physical therapy seven times a week.

“There’s absolutely no way he would have been able to recover without therapy,” Rochelle Spitzer said.

Talen just turned 13 and is able to run and play soccer, although he still has some limitations like struggling to tie his shoes, Spitzer said.

Messonier said AFM is extremely rare, affecting fewer than one person in a million. But Spitzer said it is important to raise awareness: She knows of another Arizona family with a child who’s been diagnosed, and believes the condition is a lot “more common than it seems.”

Messonnier said that she understands “what it is like to be scared for your child. Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now.”

Elliott said parents should alert, but should keep it in perspective.

“It’s new. It’s scary. It’s a significant disease, but in terms of true national threat from infectious disease, of course, influenza, the flu season is far greater. There were 80,000 deaths from the flu last season in the United States,” Elliott said.

17 Comments on "Arizona Has Had At Least Eight Cases Of Mysterious, Polio-Like Disease"

  1. Despite that, she said there are simple steps parents can take to protect their kids, including making sure children wash their hands, use bug spray and stay up to date on their vaccines.

    Researchers do know that rates spike in the fall and that more than 90 percent of cases are in children 18 or younger.

    Comes in the FALL and to Children under 18, no know cause or treatment – but take your vaccines ‘ School starts in the fall, most attending school are under 18, before attending school they must be vaccinated with multiple types of vaccines all given simultaneously – perhaps that’s the problem, the multiple attacks induced on the immune system with this process. Are the rates lower in un-vaccinated ? or those with vaccines administered one at a time over a term vs bundles of them. When this occurs in the fall do they happen just after school starts and this process has taken place? Have they looked in this direction?

    • From what I understand you can sign saying for religious reasons or other your child won’t be vaccinated for school. There are also ones faking or saying they are, and they are not.

      • Mike, I’m not so much anti-vaccine as I am anti-multi dose vaccines – the give blasts of multiple different vaccines in one shot – then back to back – how immunity is acquired vs installed is the question I have – how does the body react to multiple administered triggers is my question. Having been hospitalized myself when administered many vaccines in short order it’s a lesson that has not left me. The ‘timing’ of the incidents fall, age, new school year immunization season – coincide.

        • When I joined the Military in 1967 I got every vaccine known at the time, and more as the years went by in the Military as did everyone else in it. As did my wife, and children. Esp.. In every move we made, and more for overseas transfers. No ill effects from the shots, and out of the multi hundreds we knew in the Military they never had any. That included the smallpox one we got which didn’t take because I had cowpox as a child.

  2. What, Again | October 18, 2018 at 6:31 am |

    Pretty good bet it comes from Mexico and other ‘Latino’ countries. Not many of the invading “GoldenOnes” follow US health standards and immunization.

    • you must tremble at night – the Mexican’s are coming! Maybe it’s a conspiracy and they are putting something in the tacos?

      • What, Again | October 19, 2018 at 4:50 pm |

        If you want to immerse yourself in the filth and disease ridden third world country of Mexico, then have at it.

        Americans deserve much better. Our children deserve much better.

  3. Marana Dave | October 18, 2018 at 1:51 pm |

    This does sound like an immigration disease, perhaps from a country where we have only recently have seen the influx…


  5. Thanks to the illegal invasion lots of these diseases are showing up in this country. BUILD THE DAMN WALL & vote straight red ticket.

  6. Here’s a Polio Taco for your boneheads

    Here’s a tid-bit for you as well – polio is contagious from the person getting the immunization if a nasal spray type of a live vaccine is used, only for a short time after the live virus vaccine is used, this spread to non-vaccinated persons from the newly vaccinated person comes into contact with. Thus if the “Illegals are not vaccinated” and come into contact with a newly vaccinated child say, they are at greater danger vs creating that danger. Could they become a carrier.. interesting question for a smarter brain. Use of a injection of the vaccine vs spray negates this noted transmission danger.

    I hear it’s spread by the hot sauce.. oh and don’t eat mexican onions, tomatoes, watermelon, grapes, strawberries, melons, or use any Mexican produced medical products… sheessshhhh

    BTW – the great wall of china, built by the then emperor in attempt to wall out death. Just say’n

  7. Sheriff Mark Napier called the removal of ICE agents from the county jail “evidence of goodwill that will be reciprocated in approval of Stonegarden funding in the coming months.” LOoks like a polio epidemic in the making!!!

  8. What, Again | October 20, 2018 at 6:19 am |

    BillyB, who aspires to be a citizen of the third world, disease ridden narco state of Mexico where the age of consent for girls is 12 and incest is common, accepted, asks what I’ve done to make America a better place, better than the garbage strewn sh**h**e country to the south.

    Let’s start with vaccinations for me and my family.

    • for you, I’m sure rabbis would be a good start.. Nice that shots were available, or were they mandatory? If you want a SH try Chicago or SFCalif where the turds lay on the sidewalks and the garbage is everywhere.. that’s not south.

      I do ‘aspire to be a citizen of Mexico’ no more a “NARCO STATE” than the USA with its opioid epidemic – meth head rural districts and don’t forget 60 MILLION ABORTIONS since R vs W, who needs incest hey cowboy… There’s lots of ‘good Mexico’ I’m sure it’s something you never notice – but then that’s your style and it shows.

      • What, Again | October 20, 2018 at 2:07 pm |

        You really should get out more. When was the last time you left tucson? Ever? Ever been to Mexico?

        Chicago and its suburbs are beautiful with a thriving economy and great diversity. It’s the heart of modern manufacturing and engineering in the country. The city itself is very clean with wonderful architecture. I’m not discounted the shootings they have but that is not representative of Chicagoland.

        Comparing the US to the third world Mexico – wow. That is ignorance.

        I’m sure you’ll love the open latrines and sewage drainage. And mmm, mmm, mmm, all that rotting garbage. Enjoy! Stay Uphill!

        • I’m not discounted the shootings they have but that is not representative of Chicagoland. Higher than a war zone and in a ‘gun free zone’ are you blind – oh it’s Black lives matter unless your black then it’s a free fire zone. Drugs NARCO area, it is the industry of the area.

          Comparing the US to the third world Mexico – wow. That is ignorance.
          WA you must live under a rock sir – how do you spell DETROIT

          I’m sure you’ll love the open latrines and sewage drainage. And mmm, mmm, mmm, all that rotting garbage – WA are you talking about San Francisco? Turds on the sidewalks, naked butt holes on the seat next to you in the restaurant – the conventions have pulled out of cesspool that the city has become – no sewers just people camping and crapping in place where they shooting drugs… are you blind man?

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