Mysterious paralyzing illness reported in 22 states — CDC

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There have been cases each year since, but the numbers have been higher on alternate years.

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.

Some patients diagnosed with this condition have recovered quickly but others continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care, she said. One child died from AFM in 2017.

CDC officials say they haven't found the cause.

The CDC said the condition isn't new, "but the increase in cases we saw starting in 2014 is new". Although it is too early to understand how the current season compares to previous ones, she noted, the nation is "on track with what was seen in 2014 and 2016" and will probably have the same number of cases. Another kind of virus was found in only some of the cases.

Besides viruses, officials are also considering environmental toxins as a possible cause, but so far, they have no evidence that a particular toxin is behind the cases.

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

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About 120 confirmed cases were reported in 2014.

"I am frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said.

Health officials call the condition acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

20, the CDC had confirmed 38 cases in 16 states, which aren't required to report AFM cases to the CDC. CDC has tested every stool specimen from every AFM patient.

There is no specific treatment for AFM, but neurologists who specialize in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses may recommend certain interventions, such as physical or occupational therapy, on a case-by-case basis.

In an email Tuesday, Maryland Department of Health spokeswoman Brittany Fowler said the CDC will "make a determination about the status of the cases" in Maryland "based on clinical and laboratory information".

On Monday, CNN reached out to health departments in every state and received responses from 48 states plus the District of Columbia. But Messonnier said that, in general, parents can help protect their children from diseases by washing their hands, making sure their children are up to date with vaccinations and applying insect repellent to protect against mosquito bites, which can spread viruses.

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