CDC: ‘Mystery Disease’ Sickening Kids In 22 States, Including New Jersey

Kenny Tucker
October 18, 2018

The CDC says pediatric acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is now affecting young children in 22 states following a recent spike in Minnesota. A seventh case has been "clinically diagnosed", but remains under review by the CDC.

AFM is a condition that affects the nervous system and causes muscle weakness, according to the CDC.

The number of confirmed cases reported to date is similar to levels reported in the fall of 2014 and 2016. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states. Limb paralysis caused by the illness can worsen quickly, so it's also important that individuals experiencing these symptoms receive prompt medical attention.

Cases of AFM have been reported in 22 states around the country, and all of those cases have tested negative for polio.

And despite the resemblance to polio, officials have ruled out poliovirus as a cause of the illnesses.

On the CDC's website, it lists symptoms of the disease, which include facial droop/weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, or difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech. No known cases have been reported in Virginia or the District this year, but there were three confirmed cases in Virginia in 2016, health department officials said. Specifically, the disease affects the area of the spinal cord called gray matter.

"[There's] nothing that provides the unifying diagnosis that we'd expect to explain these peaks of disease", Messonnier said.

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Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for AFM, though the CDC says neurologists may suggest options on a case-by-case basis. Only one death has been reported, which involved an AFM illness reported in 2017.

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

"We know this can be frightening for parents", Messonnier said. CDC officials have not confirmed that enterovirus D68 causes AFM. The disorder has been diagnosed in children who have received some of their recommended vaccinations and in unvaccinated children, she said. She also said West Nile virus hasn't been linked to any of these cases, either.

Now 3 years old, Hunter has slowly recovered.

Rarely, people with AFM can suffer respiratory failure and require ventilator support when their breathing muscles become too weak.

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.

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