There are now 62 confirmed reports of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, an illness similar to polio, across 22 states in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It affects the nervous system and can cause paralysis.
The CDC began tracking the condition in 2014, when there were 120 confirmed cases.
Symptoms can include sudden limb weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial and eyelid drooping, difficulty moving the eyes, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech and, in the most severe cases, difficulty breathing, according to the CDC. The CDC still has not pin-pointed exactly what's causing this disorder, but they suspect a virus that circulates this time of the year.
"I am frustrated that despite all of our efforts we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", she said.
The increase in cases has been happening since 2014, with the number of cases spiking in August and September, she said in a news briefing with reporters. The CDC says an outbreak in 2014 seemed to coincide with an outbreak of enterovirus D68, however the virus wasn't found in every AFM patient.
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The spinal cord condition is caused by a polio-like enterovirus and manifests with similar symptoms, particularly muscle weakness and partial paralysis.
Cases have been reported in 22 states, including some in our area.
The number is almost double the amount observed in 2017, when 33 AFM cases were found in the US.
Messonnier stressed that while she understands how frightening this situation is for parents, they should remember that the infections are, in fact, rare.
Doctors say that most of the reported cases of AFM involve those under the age of 18. In 2016, there were 149 cases.
Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist who has treated children with AFM at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, said AFM is "exquisitely rare". It's acting very much like a post-viral neurological syndrome, but we can't say for sure that it is because we don't have any definitive isolation.
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Some victims have been infected with viruses, but researchers have been unable to identify a single virus responsible for all cases.
Because the disease attacks the spinal cord, Fauci said that a spinal tap - when a needle extracts cerebrospinal fluid from the spinal canal - is how researchers are looking for potential causes of AFM.
The CDC is actively investigating and monitoring disease activity and recommends taking standard prevention measures such as hand-washing, protecting oneself from mosquito bites and staying up-to-date on vaccinations.
CDC is not releasing a list of the 22 states with confirmed and suspected cases because of privacy issues.
It's important for parents to know the symptoms so they can get their child immediate medical care and help doctors get a handle on the disease.
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