Hunting down the cause of AFM

Data: CDC; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Public and private health officials are dedicating a good chunk of resources toward investigating acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), the rare polio-like illness that mainly strikes young children, not only because it's devastating but also due to concerns it could develop into something affecting larger numbers of people, an expert at Children's National Health System tells Axios.

Why it matters: While AFM reached a record high this year, the illness remains rare and some question the public resources dedicated to it. But "there's some concern that it could evolve to something larger" due to its similarity to polio, says Roberta DeBiasi, CNHS chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases. "It's better not to start when there's a large number of patients."

CDC: "Frustrated" by rare but sometimes deadly polio-like illness

Data: CDC as of Nov. 30, 2018; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The cause of a mysterious and rare polio-like illness that has infected at least 458 children since 2014, and may have killed a couple more than originally reported, is still being investigated by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention task force.

What's new: The CDC announced Monday that acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) appears to have peaked for this year in September and October. But the task force will continue seeking the elusive cause, which has "frustrated" investigators who are stymied by not finding the same pathogen in infected patients and because cases tend to be scattered sporadically throughout the U.S.

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