Published: Thu, October 18, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

CDC: Mysterious paralyzing illness reported in 22 states

CDC: Mysterious paralyzing illness reported in 22 states

"I am frustrated that despite all our efforts we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", Messonnier said.

The CDC's surveillance shows an increase in AFM cases beginning this August, as well.

"Any weakness, including trouble swallowing, weakness of an extremity, especially in a child who has recently gone through signs of an infection, those would be the main red flags", said Sarah Hopkins.

Infection with many different viruses can cause neurological complications.

"This is a mystery so far", Messonnier said, describing AFM as a "pretty dramatic disease", which preys on a child's nervous system.

Symptoms of AFM are similar to polio.

Doctors say the most serious cases can lead to respiratory failure.

Symptoms include the sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and the loss of muscle tone and reflexes. Although there is no definitive diagnosis, doctors can identify AFM from a combination of symptoms and an MRI scan, which can reveal spine inflammation.

The CDC said the West Nile virus, adenoviruses, poliovirus and non-polio enteroviruses are also possible reasons why the illness has begun spreading.

A risky and rare disease that's similar to the polio virus is on the rise in the United States, and it has health officials baffled. 90 percent of those have been in children.

"We know this can be frightening for parents", Messonnier said.

Parents are advised to remind children to practice proper hygiene, such as washing hands, covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, staying home when sick, and making sure their child is up-to-date on their vaccinations.

"As a parent myself I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", Messonnier said.

Officials said they will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases. "Most AFM cases occur in the late summer and fall", which she referred to as "seasonal clustering". He redirects redundant nerves from other parts of the arm or abdomen to replace those lost to the disease.

The CDC says this is still a rare condition that affects less than one in 1 million people per year. So far, a common cause linking these illnesses has not been found. Enterovirus (EV) D68, a virus from the same family as polio, is the leading suspect, having been closely linked to the 2014 outbreak, Pardo-Villamizar said.

"Treatment options are quite limited", he said. The Chinese have developed a vaccine against enterovirus A71, but it is not available in the USA, he adds.

CDC officials say they haven't found the cause. Similar waves of the same illness occurred in 2014 and 2016. That appears to indicate an every-other-year pattern.

Some children with AFM recover completely, but others are disabled for years. Of these, 62 cases have been confirmed in 22 states.

In the most severe cases, the muscles that control breathing are weakened to the point the patient requires ventilator.

The CDC is actively investigating the cases and working with healthcare providers as well as state and local health departments to spread the word about AFM.

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