Polio-like illness causing paralysis in children reaches the Carolinas

Cases of Mysterious Paralyzing Illness Acute Flaccid Myelitis Reported in 22 states

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that 62 cases had been confirmed in 22 states this year and an additional 65 are under investigation nationwide. A spokeswoman for hospital said they have notified the health department and are working with the CDC to learn more about the illness.

"More than 90 percent of the cases are in children age 18 years and younger", Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a CDC press conference.

"We have not been able to find a cause for the majority of these AFM cases", Messonnier admitted.

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.

There is no specific treatment for AFM. They say they are investigating several potential causes, including environmental toxins.

According to the CDC, the most severe cases of AFM can lead to respiratory failure and even death. Maryland's first case was reported September 21.

MA has seen a total of 16 confirmed cases in children since 2014, plus one probable case in an adult.

Some patients diagnosed with AFM were found to have enterovirus D68, a cousin of poliovirus, in their systems.

About 120 confirmed cases were reported in 2014. Then in 2016, there were 149 confirmed cases. But Messonnier cautioned that it would be "premature" to be confident that this year will be the same as the earlier years.

"This is actually a pretty dramatic disease", she said. The CDC estimates it affects only 1 out of 1 million people in the United States.

Parents have reported that the limbs of affected children appear lifeless.

"It's rare, but certainly when you hear about it it's very scary for parents", CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula told "CBS This Morning".

Health officials are urging parents to seek immediate medical advice if their child experiences weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms and legs.

After testing patients' stool specimens, the CDC determined poliovirus is not the cause of the AFM cases. Messonnier said West Nile virus, which had been listed as a possible cause on CDC's website, is not causing the illnesses. Since 2014, 386 cases have been confirmed, the CDC said on Tuesday. This year is one of them.

The CDC is investigating the outbreak.

"Any weakness, including trouble swallowing, weakness of an extremity, especially in a child who has recently gone through signs of an infection, those would be the main red flags", said Sarah Hopkins. No pathogen has been consistently detected in the patients' spinal fluid.

"There is a lot we don't know about AFM", Messonnier said during a teleconference for reporters. But, if their child is diagnosed, parents should prepare for extensive physical therapy - therapy that isn't always covered by insurance, he said. Some children paralyzed by AFM have eventually regained their ability to walk, but need time.

Now 3 years old, Hunter has slowly recovered.

CNN reached out to health departments in every state; 48 states responded, plus the District of Columbia.



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