Mystery Illness Causing Paralysis in Children Baffles Doctors

Five kids in Maryland may have a polio-like disease, as CDC investigates

Among the cases under investigation are five reported to Maryland health officials in recent weeks, a health department spokeswoman said Tuesday.

So far this year the CDC confirmed 62 cases in 22 states.

Acute flaccid myelitis typically causes weakness in the arms and legs, but can affect other muscle groups. Enterovirus was detected in several individual cases for which a cause was determined, while none of these patients has had west nile virus.

The CDC says there are preventive measures people can take to reduce the risk of infections that could lead to AFM.

While AFM is incredibly rare, the current rate is less than one case for every 1 million Americans, Messonnier urged parents and health care providers to be on the lookout for symptoms.

Even more troubling, the actual number of cases might be even higher. No geographic clustering has been found and there is no other "unifying factor to explain the peaks", she added.

Doctors diagnose AFM based on a combination of the patient's symptoms and an MRI scan.

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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. The CDC actually doesn't know what causes the disease or much about it at all. The CDC has stressed that the number of cases is rising. "None of the specimens have tested positive for poliovirus".

It's a rare disease that can cause muscle weakness, partial paralysis, and general polio-like symptoms in children.

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.

Of the 127 cases, about 90 percent are people under the age of 18, Reuters reported.

CDC Since August 2014, the CDC has seen 386 confirmed cases of AFM in the U.S. "There's going to be a delay, a lag in the timing of some of these reports". So far, it's been reported in 22 states.

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

The condition is not new, but the CDC said it saw an increase in cases beginning in 2014. Similar waves of the same illness occurred in 2014 and 2016. "We recommend seeking medical care right away if you or your child develops sudden weakness of the arms and legs", she said. 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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