News Releases

Washington state Senators push for information on rise in cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM), which can cause sudden limb paralysis, particularly among children

There are 7 suspected cases of AFM in Washington State

With 62 confirmed cases of AFM in 22 states nationwide, this year has already surpassed last year’s total number of cases

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), top Democrat on the Senate health committee, and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) sent a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield expressing their concerns regarding the spike in cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). In the letter, they requested information regarding progress on research into AFM, potential prevention and treatment efforts, and coordination with local and state health departments.

“While CDC classifies AFM as a very rare condition,  we are concerned by the number of cases identified this year. For example, in our home state of Washington, there are currently seven suspected cases.  As of October 16, 2018, CDC had confirmed 62 cases of AFM in 22 states nationwide, already surpassing last year’s total number of cases but not yet reaching the total number of cases from 2016, which also saw a concerning spike in AFM cases,” wrote the Senators. “These reports are particularly alarming since the majority of suspected cases are children. Harrowing accounts of sudden limb paralysis, including among very young children, have puzzled physicians and placed public health officials on high alert.  CDC estimates that fewer than one in a million people are diagnosed with AFM every year, and experts have been unable to identify specific causes of the disease.”

According to CDC, fewer than one in a million people are diagnosed with AFM every year, and experts have not identified specific causes of the disease. In Washington state, there are 7 suspected cases of AFM, and nationwide the number of cases this year has already surpassed last year.

The text of the letter is below and the PDF is available HERE.

 

October 17, 2018

 

Robert R. Redfield, MD

Director

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

1600 Clifton Road

Atlanta, GA 30329

 

Dear Director Redfield:

We write to express concern regarding an increase in cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) across the country and to obtain information on how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in coordination with local and state health departments, is working to address this very concerning trend.

While CDC classifies AFM as a very rare condition,[1] we are concerned by the number of cases identified this year. For example, in our home state of Washington, there are currently seven suspected cases.[2] As of October 16, 2018, CDC had confirmed 62 cases of AFM in 22 states nationwide, already surpassing last year’s total number of cases but not yet reaching the total number of cases from 2016, which also saw a concerning spike in AFM cases.[3] These reports are particularly alarming since the majority of suspected cases are children. Harrowing accounts of sudden limb paralysis, including among very young children, have puzzled physicians and placed public health officials on high alert.[4] CDC estimates that fewer than one in a million people are diagnosed with AFM every year, and experts have been unable to identify specific causes of the disease.[5]

We appreciate the steps CDC has taken to respond to AFM, and we urge the agency to act swiftly to protect families, stop the spread of disease, and ease the growing public concern. In order to understand the agency’s strategy to address AFM, we request your response to the following questions:

  • 1. What research is in progress or planned at the agency in regard to the etiology and potential treatment of AFM? Please describe any preliminary findings.
2. How is CDC educating providers and informing the public of this growing public health crisis?

3. How is CDC working with local and state health departments with regards to AFM, including to ensure that all potential cases of AFM are being reported?

4. What other efforts is the agency undertaking to address the rising number of AFM cases?

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We respectfully request you provide a briefing to our staff to address these questions by no later than October 24, 2018.

 

Sincerely,

 

Patty Murray

United States Senator

 

Maria Cantwell

United States Senator


[1] National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases. (2018, October 12). AFM Investigation. Retrieved October 15, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/acute-flaccid-myelitis/afm-surveillance.html

[2] Washington State Department of Health. (n.d.). Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). Retrieved October 16, 2018, from https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/AFM

[3] Clarridge, C. (2018, October 10). Five children in Washington state stricken with limb paralysis; health officials investigating. Retrieved October 15, 2018, from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/five-children-in-washington-state-stricken-with-limb-paralysis-health-officials-investigating/?utm_source=referral&utm_medium=mobile-app&utm_campaign=ios

[4] Crowe, M. (2018, October 12). Seattle mom describes baby's sudden paralysis. Retrieved October 15, 2018, from https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/seattle-mom-describes-babys-sudden-paralysis/281-603582005

[5] National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases. (2018, April 02). Acute Flaccid Myelitis. Retrieved October 15, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/acute-flaccid-myelitis/about-afm.html