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Senator urges Congress to fund battle against polio-like disease

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York state
File photo
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York state

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is calling for $1 billion in emergency funding to help battle a polio-like disease that’s affecting a growing number of people — particularly children.

“The disease is called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM,” she said. “Doctors still don’t know what causes AFM or how it spreads, and there’s no known treatment for those who get this disease.”

Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said the disease targets the spinal cord and can cause muscle weakness or paralysis. Ninety percent of AFM cases have been in children, she said.

“Most of them are between 2 and 8 years old,” she said. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported cases of AFM have spiked over the last year. And it’s the third spike they’ve seen since 2014.”

According to the CDC's website, there have been 116 confirmed cases of AFM in 31 states this year. The confirmed cases are among the 286 reports that the CDC received of patients under investigations.

Last year, the CDC received information for 33 confirmed cases, and in 2016, it received information for 149 confirmed cases.

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Gillibrand said the CDC announced earlier this month a new task force to investigate AFM.

“I’m relieved that they are taking on this mission, and now, Congress needs to make sure they have the funding they need to get the job done," she said. “Parents are extremely worried about what this disease means for their children, and the CDC has the responsibility to give them answers.”

She urged Senate and House appropriators to fund the CDC’s efforts to track AFM and support state and local responses to treat and prevent the disease.

“This is exactly what Congress was able to do for other serious diseases that suddenly spiked over the last few years, including Ebola, avian influenza and Zika virus, which also affected young children. Congress needs to have the same urgency about AFM," she said.