Polio-like illness causing paralysis in children reaches the Carolinas

Quinton Hill, 7, of Lakeville, Minn., lost movement in one arm last month due to a mysterious syndrome known as acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

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. The disease is being called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, and although researchers suspect that it's caused by a virus, no virus has yet been discovered that's associated with the condition.

In most cases, the patient's arms or legs become weak, similar to the results of infection with polio.

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.

In addition to viruses, potential causes may include environmental toxins and genetic disorders, according to the CDC, and it "can be hard to diagnose because it shares numerous same symptoms as other neurologic diseases". CDC experts say the overall rate of AFM is about one in a one million. Of those, 30 states said they had cases that were confirmed, suspected or being investigated - including 15 states that said they had confirmed cases in 2018.

Messonnier also said none of this year's cases have been linked to West Nile virus.

Once diagnosed, some patients have recovered quickly, but some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care, Messonnier said.

The virus is diagnosed by examining a patient's nervous system and in combination with looking at photos of the patient's spinal cord, the CDC says.

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The spinal cord condition is caused by a polio-like enterovirus and manifests with similar symptoms, particularly muscle weakness and partial paralysis.

A "polio-like illness" that affects children is spreading across the United States and has now been found in 22 states, CNN reported Wednesday.

Messonnier said the search for a cause is frustrating, and so far, no particular pathogen or immune response has been identified that would explain the big AFM peaks.

The CDC received information on 33 confirmed cases of AFM across 16 states in 2017, 149 cases in 39 states. There have now been a total of 386 confirmed cases since 2014. Doctors at Children's have not seen an AFM patient needing a ventilator this year, but have treated such cases in the past, Benson said.

Mary said, "We have a 9-year-old grandson that we worry about and other grandchildren and we just don't know enough about it".

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

There is no specific treatment for AFM.

Although it's rare, the CDC recommends seeking medical care right away if you or your child develop sudden weakness of the arms or legs.

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