Son of local basketball coach fighting polio-like disease at Children's Hospital

NEW YORK — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed three cases of acute flaccid myelitis in Pittsburgh and one suspected case in the Philadelphia.

Channel 11 reported last week that there were three suspected cases in the Pittsburgh area that had been sent to the CDC for testing,and the results just came back positive.

“Acute flaccid myelitis is a rare and potentially life-threatening disease that is affecting residents across the state,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “At this time, the exact causes or source of this disease is unknown.”

One of those cases is the child of Pine-Richland High School coach Jeff Ackermann.

According to a release from Governor Tom Wolf, there was one confirmed case in Pennsylvania last year, seven in 2016, zero in 2015 and seven in 2014.

At least 62 cases have been confirmed in 22 states this year, and at least 65 additional illnesses in those states are being investigated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some possible causes, such as polio and West Nile virus, have been ruled out. Another kind of virus is suspected, but it's been found in only some of the cases.

"This is a mystery so far," the CDC's Dr. Nancy Messonnier said in a call Tuesday with reporters.

About 90 percent of the cases are children who have suffered muscle weakness or paralysis, including in the face, neck, back or limbs. The symptoms tend to occur about a week after they had a fever and respiratory illness.

It is "a pretty dramatic disease," but fortunately most kids recover, Messonnier said.


Health officials call the condition acute flaccid myelitis. The CDC would not release a list of the states reporting probable or confirmed cases, however, according to CNN, the states reporting confirmed cases are Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.

States reporting suspected cases or cases under investigation are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Washington, CNN reported.

The cases in 2014 and 2016 were partly attributed to particular strains of respiratory germs called enteroviruses, which spread the most in the summer and fall.

Most people infected with enteroviruses suffer only minor symptoms like cough and runny nose. And though enteroviruses have been detected in some paralysis cases, it hasn't been found in others, CDC officials say.


Lacking an established cause, health officials confirm cases through a review of brain scans and symptoms.

About 120 confirmed cases were reported in 2014. Another 149 were reported in 2016. In 2015 and 2017, the counts of reported illnesses were far lower.

The cases this year seem to be spread across much of the country, as were the earlier two waves. But mysteriously no other country has reported the emerging every-two-years pattern seen in the U.S., Messonnier said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.