Mysterious Polio-like Disorder Striking Children Around US Growing

Case Of Polio-Like Illness Acute Flaccid Myelitis Confirmed In Mass.

The state's health department said the five reported cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) also are being investigated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and are among dozens of cases the federal health agency is looking into across the country.

There have been no confirmed cases of AFM in Maine this year, according to Emily Spencer, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine CDC. "For some previous cases, we have identified one pathogen or another, but we have no unifying diagnosis", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Despite that alarm, there are a lot of unknowns about the polio-like illness, including what causes it and why it affects children more than adults.

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. Then in 2016, there were 149 confirmed cases.

In some individuals, health officials have determined that the condition was from infection with a type of virus that causes severe respiratory illness.

"At first they were not sure the symptoms were real because it came so suddenly, and that weakness comes and often times it persists and that's when the parents take their child to go see the doctor for the treatments available, but that's the pattern, sudden onset painless weakness", Gupta said. Of these, 62 cases have been confirmed in 22 states.

Doctors diagnose AFM based on a combination of the patient's symptoms and an MRI scan. Symptoms include neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

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

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"What we have been told is that he's the best case scenario of a hard situation", she said.

As CDC scientists search for the root cause of the mysterious ailment, the organisation has urged healthcare providers to be extra vigilant when dealing with patients displaying limb weakness and mobility issues.

The increase in cases appeared to begin in 2014, when the CDC started tracking the illness.

CNN did not have any reported cases in Missouri but our news partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported at least one child had sought treatment at St. Louis Children's Hospital. And though enteroviruses have been detected in some paralysis cases, it hasn't been found in others, CDC officials say.

Now 3 years old, Hunter has slowly recovered.

States reporting suspected cases or cases under investigation are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Washington.

For example, the CDC doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or why some are at higher risk, she said.

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