Mysterious paralyzing illness among children reported in 22 states, including New York

Department of Public Health confirms case of polio-like disease in Massachusetts

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of at least 62 confirmed cases in 22 states, according to officials.

The MDH says the case is now being reviewed, and did not provide information regarding where in the state this particular case was diagnosed, or whether or not the child is in the hospital.

The rare disease, acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), affects the nervous system and can cause paralysis, mainly in children. Symptoms include neck weakness or stiffness, drooping eyelids or a facial droop and difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

Dozens of children across the United States have developed a rare polio-like illness, but the reason for this spike in cases remains a mystery, according to health officials.

Cases have been confirmed in 22 states. "Most AFM cases occur in the late summer and fall, ." which she referred to as "seasonal clustering". It mostly afflicts children and young adults and can be caused by toxins in one's environment, genetic disorders or viruses such as poliovirus, West Nile virus or adenovirus. There have been cases each year since, but the numbers have been higher on alternate years.

Messonnier said the CDC has definitively ruled out polio - which causes a similar set of symptoms - as the cause. Despite extensive laboratory and other testing, CDC has been unable to find the cause for the majority of the cases.

"We know this can be frightening for parents", Messonnier said.

One child has died of the condition, called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM. Some who contract AFM will feel weakness in their arms or legs, a loss of muscle tone or slower reflexes.

Some patients recover quickly, while others experience paralysis and require ongoing care. "We actually don't know what is causing this increase".

The CDC referred calls to individual state health departments.

"There is a lot we don't know about AFM", Messonnier said during a teleconference for reporters.

There are five cases of AFM in Maryland. Cases have been reported from the Twin Cities, central Minnesota and northeastern Minnesota.

In an email Tuesday, Maryland Department of Health spokeswoman Brittany Fowler said the CDC will "make a determination about the status of the cases" in Maryland "based on clinical and laboratory information".

The CDC is investigating the cases and monitoring the disease, and encourages people to prevent the disease by staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and protecting against mosquito bites.



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