Senator Gillibrand Calls for $1 Billion in Emergency Funding to Combat AFM

November 28, 2018

Rare Daily Staff

U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand, D-New York, called on Congress to provide the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention $1 billion in emergency funding to combat an outbreak of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare polio-like disease afflicting children throughout the country.

AFM affects a person’s the spinal cord, causing weakness or paralysis in one or more limbs. AFM or neurologic conditions like it have a variety of causes, such as viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. The CDC has said it does not know the cause of AFM, but patients’ symptoms have been most similar to complications of infection with certain viruses, including poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses, and West Nile virus. There is no known treatment for this disease.

The CDC have confirmed or are investigating hundreds of suspected cases of AFM in 46 states and Washington, D.C. Some 90 percent of cases have been in children under the age of 18, with the majority of patients between the ages of 2 and 8.

The number of cases of AFM are growing. The increase in AFM cases over the last year is the third spike of AFM cases since 2014. In 2014, there were 120 confirmed cases of AFM, and two years later in 2016, there were 149 cases. Many of the affected children have had long-term paralysis or ongoing care needs.

The CDC earlier this month announced a new task force to investigate AFM. Gillibrand said as Congress finalizes the fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill, she is calling on Congressional appropriators to provide the emergency funding necessary to give the CDC the resources it needs to investigate, treat, and prevent AFM.

In a letter the leaders of the Senate and House appropriations committees, Gillibrand noted that in the past, Congress provided emergency funding to support investigation and response efforts related to other serious diseases, such as ebola, zika, and avian influenza for research and development of vaccines and treatments, health workforce training, and public education. As an example, she pointed to the $1.1 billion in appropriations Congress provided in 2017 to combat Zika.

“Much like Zika, AFM is affecting our nation’s young children. As a mother, I believe Congress must make similar investments to ensure that the CDC has the resources it needs for AFM research, prevention, and response efforts, particularly as the number of cases of this rare, but serious condition continue to rise,” wrote Gillibrand. “I therefore urge your committees to provide additional funding to support the work of the CDC to fully understand the causes of AFM and its long-term effects on children in order to inform treatment and prevention efforts. It is imperative that we protect all children from AFM, and ensure that health officials, care providers, and parents and families have access to the most accurate and up to date information.”

November 28, 2018
Photo: Senator Kristen Gillibrand, D-New York

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