This year, more than half of all USA states have had confirmed or possible cases of acute flaccid myelitis, the polio-like illness that can cause paralysis and mostly affects children, according to an exclusive CNN analysis.
Today, federal health officials expressed worry about an uptick in acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a mysterious and rare condition mostly affecting children. More than 90 percent of the cases reported so far are people under 18 years of age. "It causes a lot of what [are] typically very mild sort of nuisance type diseases". The agency does not know what causes the mystery disease, whose symptoms include drooping eyelids, facial weakness, slurred speech and in severe cases, respiratory failure.
"We understand that people, particularly parents, are concerned about AFM", said Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, according to the Washington Post.
Although some AFM patients tested positive for an enterovirus, indicating a possible link, not all had the virus.
"I am frustrated that despite all our efforts we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", Messonnier said. There has been one AFM-related death, which happened in 2017. Since 2014, 386 cases have been reported. It causes sudden muscle weakness, but what drove many of these children's parents to action was a more extreme reaction: paralysis.
Neurological conditions like it have a variety of causes, such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders.
CNN has reported that this year, more than half of all USA states have had confirmed or possible cases, including North and SC.
States are reporting their cases to the CDC, Messonnier said. Most of the cases have involved children.
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"It attacked [my child's] body and her spinal cord a certain way that seems to be happening to other kids too", said Josh Payne, the parent of a child battling AFM.
Media reports in recent weeks have suggested that a "polio-like virus" might be triggering the condition, elevating fears that it might be polio itself.
A unsafe and rare disease that's similar to the polio virus is on the rise in the U.S., and it has health officials baffled.
Some patients diagnosed with AFM were found to have enterovirus D68, a cousin of poliovirus, in their systems.
According to the CDC, scientists have not yet been able to determine who is most at risk for developing AFM.
The CDC referred calls to individual state health departments.
State health officials in Minnesota issued an alert to doctors this month after six children there were diagnosed with AFM. He can hit them with an electric shock akin to touching a vehicle battery, he says, but they do not move.