CDC Confirms Oklahoma Case of Rare, Polio-Like Disease

Five children in Maryland have contracted symptoms of an illness similar to polio this fall, according to state health officials.

Geography also does not appear to be a factor, with the confirmed cases spread across 22 of the 50 USA states.

There is now no cure for AFM, known cause in most cases, or clear explanation for why some people who contract the enterovirus experience symptoms and others do not.

"Despite a lot of investigation by CDC and our partners, AFM remains a mystery disease", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases for the CDC.

AFM was first detected in 2014, when 120 cases were confirmed. "And certainly after three cycles of this, when we've looked through all the normal agents, we're looking beyond that to see if there are things beyond normal infectious diseases that could cause this", said Messonnier.

"We have not been able to find a cause for the majority of these AFM cases", she said. She also said West Nile virus hasn't been linked to any of these cases, either.

A rare but devastating polio-like virus appears to have made itself at home in the United States, partially paralyzing hundreds of children.

Symptoms of AFM include neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop, and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech. 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.

Despite its similarity to polio, none of the AFM patients has tested positive for the poliovirus, Messonnier said.

Follow-up with patients from the 2014 and 2016 waves has shown that most children do not recover from acute flaccid myelitis, for which there now is no cure.

However, the CDC says they know that some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly, and some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care.

So far, viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders are all possible causes for the spike.

Parents should seek immediate medical care for kids exhibiting AFM symptoms, Messonnier said at the press conference, according to STAT.

Sister Station WVLT is reporting that doctors diagnosed six-year-old Spencer Hill of Chattanooga with the sickness known as Acute Flaccid Myelitis.

The CDC says disease prevention steps should be followed, including staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and using mosquito repellant. So far, 2016 was the worst year, with 149 confirmed cases.

"My husband that noticed her arm was kind of just hanging there", her mother, Carlene, said.

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