CDC: 'Mystery illness' leaving dozens of children paralyzed

5 children in Maryland might have a polio-like disease. The CDC is investigating.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expressed frustration and concern Tuesday about a puzzling surge in cases of polio-like paralysis, mostly in children, being reported across the country this year.

USA health officials have issued a warning about a rare condition which attacks the nervous system and spinal cord after 62 new cases of the little-known disease were confirmed across 22 states.

A seventh case has been "clinically diagnosed", but remains under review by the CDC.

When AFM strikes, patients experience sudden weakness, as well as loss of muscle tone and reflexes in the arms and legs.

In 2014 the CDC said there was a spike in the AFM virus, with 120 people afflicted with it from August to December of that year in 34 states. So far this year, there have been 62 confirmed cases in 22 states.

The agency knows that poliovirus is not the cause of these cases, because CDC has tested every single stool specimen from patients, and none have tested positive for poliovirus.

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. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said. "We recommend seeking medical care right away if you or your child develops sudden weakness of the arms and legs", she said.

Boston Children's Hospital has evaluated all of the confirmed and suspected AFM cases that occurred in MA this year.


Some possible causes being investigated by the CDC include enteroviruses, which affect the digestive system, and rhinoviruses - the infectious agents associated with the common cold.

Generally, most children with AFM see subtle improvements over time, but "most have long-term weakness", she said. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states.

Officials said they will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases.

But the agency doesn't know who may be at higher risk nor why they may be at higher risk. CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide range of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM.

In research developments, a team based at the J. Craig Venter Institute conducted experiments to see if a specific EV-D68 genotype is linked to neurologic symptoms and found that some viruses from the 2014 outbreak can infect neuronal cells. "So we're very lucky that he had (physical therapy) through early intervention".

Now 3 years old, Hunter has slowly recovered.

There is no known cause or treatment, a state Department of Public Health advisory said. There was one confirmed death previous year, the CDC said on Tuesday.

Washington Post writers Dana Hedgpeth and Justin Wm.

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