'Polio like' illness spreads to 22 states

Cases of Mysterious Paralyzing Illness Acute Flaccid Myelitis Reported in 22 states

Cases of Mysterious Paralyzing Illness Acute Flaccid Myelitis Reported in 22 states

A sharp spike in cases of pediatric acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is raising red flags with health officials, who despite concerted efforts, haven't identified a cause.

"A polio-like disease because in the sense that it does involve the same areas in the nervous system", said Dr. Cristina L. Sadowsky, clinical director for the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, with Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Among the concerns the CDC has are that the agency does not know the cause of AFM, why there has been an increase in cases since 2014, or the long-term effects of the illness.

US health officials on Tuesday reported a jump in cases of AFM.

Maryland health officials said their first case was reported to them September 21.

The MDH says the case is now being reviewed, and did not provide information regarding where in the state this particular case was diagnosed, or whether or not the child is in the hospital.

Parents have reported that the limbs of affected children appear lifeless.

The CDC urges parents to be aware of this illness and to seek medical care right away if family members develop sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms or legs.

The outlook for patients with AFM can vary from a quick recovery to ongoing paralysis, Messonnier said.

The CDC has been tracking cases of AFM since a noted spike in 2014. But Messonnier cautioned that it would be "premature" to be confident that this year will be the same as the earlier years.

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"This is a pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier said.

"Nobody really knows treatment protocols, they don't know prognosis, and they can't really give parents an answer as to where this is coming from", she said.

More broadly, she noted, "there is a lot we don't know about AFM". "Parents need to know that AFM is very rare even with the increase in cases we're seeing right now".

"That's important because enteroviruses cause the common cold", Ellerin said. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states. CDC officials added that while they have not seen any geographical clustering, they have seen seasonal clustering, with most cases occurring in the late summer and fall, dating back to when the CDC first noticed an uptick in the illness in 2014.

Officials said they will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases.

That's up from 22 people who were said to have it in 2015.

The CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide variety of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM.

Parents can best protect their children from serious diseases by taking prevention steps, such as washing their hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites.

Now 3 years old, Hunter has slowly recovered. The highest number of cases took place in 2016, when 149 were reported cases in 39 states. But some state health departments, such as Minnesota's, have reported the numbers. States are not required to provide this information to CDC, but they have been voluntarily reporting their data.

Dana Hedgpeth and Justin Wm.

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