Health Care

CDC: ‘Mystery Disease’ Sickening Kids In 22 States, Including New Jersey

CDC: ‘Mystery Disease’ Sickening Kids In 22 States, Including New Jersey”

This year, five children in Maryland have come down with AFM symptoms, according to the Maryland Department of Health.

While the cause of AFM is not clear, experts say it can occur as a result of a variety of viral illnesses including the polio virus, enteroviruses, West Nile virus, and adenoviruses. At least 62 cases have been confirmed in 22 states this year, and at least 65 additional illnesses in those states are being investigated.

ABC News Videos A girl recovers after contracting acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system and causes the body's muscles and reflexes to become weak.

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.

More than 90 percent of cases are in children. There was one confirmed death past year, the CDC said on Tuesday.

Messonnier said the CDC has definitively ruled out polio - which causes a similar set of symptoms - as the cause. She said the average age of AFM patients is 4. CDC officials added that while they have not seen any geographical clustering, they have seen seasonal clustering, with most cases occurring in the late summer and fall, dating back to when the CDC first noticed an uptick in the illness in 2014.

A sharp spike in cases of pediatric acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is raising red flags with health officials, who despite concerted efforts, haven't identified a cause.

The outlook for patients with AFM can vary from a quick recovery to ongoing paralysis, Messonnier said. IL health officials said they're working with the CDC to better classify the cases. Then in 2016, there were 149 confirmed cases.

Still, because this is a "pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier said health officials want to raise awareness about the symptoms to make sure parents seek medical care immediately if their children show a sudden onset of weakness or loss of muscle tone in their arms and legs.

She said it was important for parents and clinicians to remember that this is a rare condition, affecting less than 1 in 1 million people under 18.

"They are generally seeking medical care and being evaluated by neurologists, infectious disease doctors and their pediatricians".

She said that CDC has tested every stool specimen from AFM patients. "Parents need to know that AFM is rare even with the increase in cases we are seeing now". But some state health departments have been making public their reported cases.

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. But that bug - enterovirus D68 - could not be definitively linked to the illnesses.

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