Mysterious paralyzing illness reported in 22 states — CDC

The increase in cases of AFM has alarmed public health officials because not all of the children affected fully recover

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are now 62 cases across 22 states this year.

The surge has baffled health officials, who on Tuesday announced a change in the way the agency is counting cases. The illness mainly affects children. But officials haven't been able to find a single agent that would explain the clusters of cases that occur around the same time. "We actually don't know what's causing this increase", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, of the CDC.

All told 386 cases of AFM have been confirmed since 2014, more than 90 percent in children younger than 18.

There is no specific treatment for the disorder, and long-term outcomes are unknown.

Acute flaccid myelitis affects the spinal cord and can cause partial paralysis.

The department added it may take up to three weeks to confirm the diagnosis, and that AFM is extremely rare but can be very serious.

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. "We recommend seeking medical care right away if you or your child develops sudden weakness of the arms and legs", she said.

Since the condition was first recognized by CDC in 2014, the agency has confirmed 362 cases. But Messonnier cautioned that it would be "premature" to be confident that this year will be the same as the earlier years.

It is "a pretty dramatic disease", but fortunately most kids recover, Messonnier said. Doctors at Children's have not seen an AFM patient needing a ventilator this year, but have treated such cases in the past, Benson said.

In some individuals, health officials have determined that the condition was from infection with a type of virus that causes severe respiratory illness. Fifteen states said they'd confirmed cases this year.

The CDC is investigating the outbreak. Numbers dropped drastically in 2015 and 2017 - to 22 and 33, respectively - but were back up again in 2016 at 149. CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide variety of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM.

The CDC is actively investigating and monitoring disease activity and recommends taking standard prevention measures such as hand-washing, protecting oneself from mosquito bites and staying up-to-date on vaccinations.

Messonnier also said none of this year's cases have been linked to West Nile virus.

"Families really sticking with it are seeing slow but steady recovery", he said.

Other countries have reported AFM cases, but not the same seasonal pattern the United States has experienced.

States are not required to provide this information to the CDC but have been voluntarily reporting their data.

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