Bennet, Gardner Receive Update on Polio-Like Disease at Children’s Hospital Colorado

15 of the 80 confirmed cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis occurred in Colorado this year

AURORA, CO – Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) today met with Children’s Hospital Colorado researchers to receive an update on the recent outbreak of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)—a rare polio-like condition that has affected approximately 400 children across the country.

The senators met with Dr. Kevin Messacar, an infectious disease physician-scientist whose team has been one of the primary research groups studying the disease since first seeing cases in 2014. Most common in young children, AFM affects the nervous system, causing symptoms such as weakness of the limbs and paralysis. Research on AFM suggests that viruses in the enterovirus family are the most common associated cause. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 15 of the 80 confirmed cases of AFM in the United States this year. 

“Dr. Messacar and his team at Children’s Hospital Colorado are at the forefront of AFM research, leading the medical field in better understanding and treating this serious illness. It was encouraging to hear about their work to prevent AFM from harming one more child. We’ll continue working with federal agencies to ensure teams like Dr. Messacar’s have the resources they need to manage the outbreak and keep our children healthy,” said Bennet, a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). Bennet sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month, urging further action to inform the public, enhance detection, and support research for AFM.

“We need to continue to empower our researchers and medical community, specifically those at Children’s Hospital Colorado, who have been leading efforts to understand this horrible disease and identify the proper steps forward to combat it. There also needs to be a strong coordination and open communication between our researchers in Colorado and the CDC, and Senator Bennet and I will make sure that is happening,” said Gardner.

“Raising awareness and increasing resources for surveillance and research efforts is essential to developing more effective treatment and prevention strategies for acute flaccid myelitis. The bipartisan support of Senators Bennet and Gardner is an important step towards helping us accomplish this goal,” said Dr. Messacar.