The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s own medical advisers are criticizing the federal health agency for being slow to respond to a polio-like disease that’s struck hundreds of children over the past six years.
“Frustrated and disappointed — I think that’s exactly how most of us feel,” said Dr. Keith Van Haren, one of the CDC advisers on AFM and an assistant professor of neurology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Van Haren and other doctors who care for these children say the agency has been slow to gather data and to guide pediatricians and emergency room physicians on how to diagnose and treat the children struck with the disease, acute flaccid myelitis.
“This is the CDC’s job. This is what they’re supposed to do well. And it’s a source of frustration to many of us that they’re apparently not doing these things,” said Dr. Kenneth Tyler, a professor and chair of the department of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and another adviser to the CDC on AFM.
At a press briefing this month, a CDC doctor said the agency was working hard to find the cause of the outbreaks.
“We continue to investigate to better understand the clinical picture of AFM cases, risk factors and possible causes of the increase in cases,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
She said the agency could do a better job getting the message out about the signs of AFM.
“We’re obviously not doing a good enough job because it’s not getting to every place that we want it to, so we need to work harder,” she told CNN in an interview.
According to the CDC, since 2014, there have been 396 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis, which resembles polio and causes paralysis in children.
This year, there have been 72 confirmed cases of AFM, and another 119 possible cases are being investigated, according to the agency.