CDC: 'Mystery illness' leaving dozens of children paralyzed

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Another resides in Louisville. "We had one case of that and that was just terrible", Acosta said. In extreme cases, paralysis and death can occur.

The experts emphasized that even though AFM is regularly passing through the United States, it remains a rare illness. There was one confirmed death previous year, the CDC said on Tuesday. The health department is investigating such suspected cases of illness in 25 states. But recent news about AFM has caused some alarm among parents in Louisville. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said.

At the press conference, Messonnier emphasized how rare the disease is.

2016: 149 cases across 39 states, including Washington, D.C.

While just one person in a million gets it every year, it's a growing health concern. Another spike came in 2016. More than 60 suspected cases remain under investigation. The CDC said the average age of patients nationwide is four years old.

Doctors diagnose AFM based on a combination of the patient's symptoms and an MRI scan.

What's known is that AFM is that it's not caused by the poliovirus, which has been eradicated in the U.S.

On Wednesday, Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville confirmed that a 3-year-old girl was recently diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), an extremely rare condition that causes muscles and reflexes to become weak.


So far, the CDC has found no relationship between vaccines and children diagnosed with AFM from the 2014 cases.

There is no evidence to support a "geographic clustering" of cases.

"We have a lot of anger toward the CDC", said Gary, 37, speaking as a member of the AFM parent community. It affects the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

"We don't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or the reasons why they may be at higher risk", she said. While there is no specific treatment for AFM, doctors may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis. A study published last year found 6 of 8 children in Colorado with acute flaccid myelitis still struggled with motor skills one year after their diagnosis.

AFM may be caused by other viruses, including enterovirus, environmental toxins and a condition in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys tissue that it mistakes for foreign material, Messonnier said: "This is a mystery so far, and we haven't solved it yet, so we have to be thinking broadly". It causes hand, foot and mouth disease. "It causes fever illnesses in the summer and fall, often associated with rashes". The 2014 AFM outbreak coincided with the largest ever national outbreak of enterovirus D68, but researchers at the CDC and at UT Southwestern have recovered D68 samples from only a small subset of patients.

In Canada, the disease is tracked as part of a larger category called "acute flaccid paralysis".

Other symptoms of AFM include facial droop, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech.

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