Mysterious paralyzing illness found among kids in 22 states, including Md

Case Of Polio-Like Illness Acute Flaccid Myelitis Confirmed In Mass.

Today, federal health officials expressed worry about an uptick in acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a mysterious and rare condition mostly affecting children.

She said the CDC and research partners are casting a wide net trying to figure out what is causing the rise in cases, suggesting scientists have been looking at a variety of viruses and even environmental toxins in their search.

Physicians first began noticing an increase in AFM patients in 2014, with roughly 120 confirmed cases. But she stressed that despite the increase in cases, the illness is still very rare, occurring in fewer than 1 in a million people in the US each year.

"We understand that people, particularly parents, are concerned about AFM", said Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The CDC also does not yet know who may be at a higher risk for developing AFM or the long-term consequences of the condition.

In addition to viruses, potential causes may include environmental toxins and genetic disorders, according to the CDC, and it "can be hard to diagnose because it shares numerous same symptoms as other neurologic diseases". Another kind of virus was found in only some of the cases. It affects the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

Symptoms can include sudden limb weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial and eyelid drooping, difficulty moving the eyes, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech and, in the most severe cases, difficulty breathing, according to the CDC.

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Some patients recover quickly, while others experience paralysis and require ongoing care. But the data reported Tuesday represents "a substantially larger number than in previous months this year", Messonnier said.

There have been no confirmed cases of AFM in Maine this year, according to Emily Spencer, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine CDC.

That's when we spoke with the families of 4-year-old Camdyn Carr, who's now fighting the disease, and 7-year-old Sebastian Bottomley, who previously fought AFM. "We just don't know enough".

"AFM is a very rare and serious condition", Messonnier said, urging parents to take preventive steps such as encouraging hand washing, ensuring that children receive recommended vaccinations, and making sure they wear insect repellent.

But the agency doesn't know who may be at higher risk nor why they may be at higher risk.

The CDC received information on 33 confirmed cases of AFM across 16 states in 2017, 149 cases in 39 states. The disease is being called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, and although researchers suspect that it's caused by a virus, no virus has yet been discovered that's associated with the condition. No pathogen has been consistently detected in the patients' spinal fluid.

So far, the CDC hasn't seen any geographic patterns based on reporting from states.

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