Mysterious Paralyzing Illness Like Polio Found Among Kids in 22 States

Five kids in Maryland may have a polio-like disease, as CDC investigates

CDC Investigates Cases Of Rare Neurological 'Mystery Illness' In Kids

The paralysis sets in about a week after the children have come down with fever and respiratory illness.

What is acute flaccid myelitis? Right now the CDC says the likelihood of someone developing AFM is one in 1 million. The average age of the children is about 4, and 90 percent of the cases involve children 18 and younger, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told NPR in a teleconference with reporters on Tuesday. The CDC has not released the specific locations in the two states, but there are a couple more unconfirmed cases in Louisville and Cleveland.

Pennsylvania has three confirmed cases, and one suspected case, of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in 2018, according to state officials. She noted the confirmed cases are in 22 states.

While the CDC has yet to confirm a case in Virginia, Hoff said her son Camdyn was diagnosed with AFM while hospitalized at UVA Medical Center, falling ill with the telltale symptoms. "That means nerves might be involved, and they need to be evaluated right away", said Dr. Cory Vogel, an emergency room physician with BayCare Clinic.

"It seems like there's been more cases since 2014 on a national level. It's just mind blowing", said Spencer's mother Serena Hill.

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The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment other than fluids, the CDC says. The CDC has indicated there have been more hospitalizations with this outbreak than what is typically seen.


Kristen Ehresmann, director of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control at the Minnesota Department of Health, told Healthline, "it's very concerning".

The rare AFM condition mostly presents in children but so far a cause or consistent patient pathogen has alluded doctors.

The disorder has been diagnosed in unvaccinated children and also in children who have received some of their recommended vaccinations, she said.

In some cases children have recovered, but in others the paralysis has lingered. We have not confirmed the cause for the majority of these cases.

Health officials urge parents to be vigilant, as there's a lot unknown about the syndrome and what causes it. Although it is too early to understand how the current season compares to previous ones, she noted, the nation is "on track with what was seen in 2014 and 2016" and will probably have the same number of cases. In 2017, one person died of AFM. Another kind of virus is suspected, but it's been found in only some of the cases. Although there is no definitive diagnosis, doctors can identify AFM from a combination of symptoms and an MRI scan, which can reveal spine inflammation.

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Health officials do not know what's causing the increasing number of cases of AFM.

People can protect themselves from contracting AFM using methods similar to preventing getting the flu, Ellerin said.

"It can also be in the face, that kind of develops quickly over hours or days", said Mayo Clinic Chair of Infectious Diseases Elie Berbari.

Messonnier did not address enterovirus D68 directly during the news conference and said the CDC has not yet had time to fully analyze the cases from this summer and fall.

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