Mystery Illness Causing Paralysis in Children Baffles Doctors

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

The CDC has been tracking cases of AFM since a noted spike in 2014. The other good news is that only one of the 386 cases so far has resulted in death.

The overall rate of AFM is fewer than one in a million, she said. This condition is not new, but the increase in cases we saw starting in 2014 is new ...

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), an extremely rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system and causes the body's muscles and reflexes to become weak, is on the rise across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Tuesday that 90 percent of the cases occur in those 18 years of age or younger.

While she can't predict how 2018 will turn out, Messonnier said that the number of cases so far this year seems to be in line with the previous two waves in 2014 and 2016.

Some victims have been infected with viruses, but researchers have been unable to identify a single virus responsible for all cases. It is important that tests are done as soon as possible after someone develops symptoms.

Another potential cause of AFM is a type of enterovirus called EV D68, Todd said.

The number is almost double the amount observed in 2017, when 33 AFM cases were found in the US.

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There is no specific treatment for AFM. Viruses that can cause the disease include poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses and West Nile virus. There was one confirmed death past year, the CDC said on Tuesday.

Parents have reported that the limbs of affected children appear lifeless.

"As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said. And in very rare cases, AFM can trigger fatal neurological complications.

To help prevent the illness' spread, the CDC advises proper hand washing, staying up to date on vaccines and using mosquito repellent to avoid bites.

The Douglas County Health Department's Phil Rooney said, "This is not a diagnosis like flu or other diseases where you can do blood draw fluids". This can require urgent ventilator support (breathing machine).

How can AFM be treated?

The Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a warning to parents on Wednesday, urging them to recognize the symptoms of AFM.

This disease is like a "hit-and-run", Gupta said, and "you don't have evidence of the virus but you do have evidence of the aftermath so it's hard to piece together".

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