PA has three confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis

An electron micrograph of a thin section of EV-D68 a rare enterovirus.									Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Yiting Zhang  CDC

Viruses that can cause the disease include poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses and West Nile virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 62 cases in 22 states.

"In terms of the diseases I usually deal with, say if it's measles, we know the incubation period, we know the infectious period". It can start with a fever and respiratory illness; then the sick child suddenly loses the ability to move an arm or leg.

Despite the recent spike in reported cases of AFM, Messonnier underscored that the disease is "incredibly rare" and has been diagnosed annually at a rate of less than one in a million since 2014. Tyler thinks the virus, called enterovirus D68, has changed since it was first identified in 1962, becoming more risky.

Officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health say that a case from the summer has now been classified as AFM. It tends to develop in children more than adults.

The CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide variety of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM. Some with AFM will feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes. In 2017, one person died of AFM.

Nancy Messonnier, a doctor at the CDC, called it a "mystery illness".

The first cases of AFM coincided with an unusually severe outbreak of a common virus that affects the lungs or gut.

"If you see symptoms, like, they are saying their arms are hurting or they are not using them and everything, just come to the emergency room", Faircloth said.

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

But the CDC still has suggestions to decrease the likelihood of getting the disease.

"That's pretty terrifying. It is terrifying if you are a parent", Kerkering said. But treatments for the infection itself remain elusive. Nor can they explain why only a handful of infected children developed AFM. "Unfortunately there are no real treatments that have been proven to work, but early rehabilitation has been shown to help", Narula said.

So far the disease has claimed one life in the U.S. Scientists are investigating a number of causes, including viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders, the CDC said on its website.

The federal agency said similar waves of the illness occurred in 2014 and 2016.

Roughly 90 percent of the cases so far have involved children, who suffer from muscle weakness or paralysis that impacts face, neck, back or limbs.

Although symptoms may appear similar to polio, AFM is not polio and it is not contagious.

Doctors said it could be caused by any of 100 enteroviruses.

That was certainly true in Sarah Pilarowski's family.

Robin Roberts of Richmond, Virginia, spoke with NBC News about the death of her 5-year-old son, Carter, last month after he became paralyzed from his nose down because of the illness in 2016. When Lydia was not strong enough to hold an ear of corn in her left hand, Pilarowski got anxious. "We know that some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly and some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care", Messonnier said.

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