A spike in the number of children with a rare neurological disease that causes polio-like symptoms has health officials across the country scrambling to understand the illness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed cases in 22 states overall. Officials said they are looking at an additional 65 possible cases of AFM. Between August 2014 and September 2018, 362 cases were confirmed by the CDC.
The average age of children is about 4, she said, and 90 percent of cases the CDC has been studying since 2014 have involved children 18 or younger.
"We know this can be frightening for parents", Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a press briefing on Tuesday.
The cause of most of the AFM incidents is unknown, according to the CDC, as are the long-term effects.
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". Several cases have been linked to enteroviruses or other germs, but officials have not been able to find a cause for the majority of these cases.
Symptoms can include sudden limb weakness, loss of muscle tone and reflexes, facial and eyelid drooping, difficulty moving the eyes, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech and, in the most severe cases, difficulty breathing, according to the CDC. The illness can lead to serious complications - including paralysis or respiratory failure - and requires immediate medical attention. Officials have been baffled by the increase, and are starting to count suspected cases as well as confirmed ones to better anticipate increases in confirmed cases over the coming months.
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MA has seen a total of 16 confirmed cases in children since 2014, plus one probable case in an adult.
Officials said some people diagnosed with the illness recover quickly while others need ongoing care.
CDC has tested every stool specimen from every AFM patient.
That's when we spoke with the families of 4-year-old Camdyn Carr, who's now fighting the disease, and 7-year-old Sebastian Bottomley, who previously fought AFM. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said.
Officials have not determined a cause of the rare disease.
The CDC says disease prevention steps should be followed, including staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and using mosquito repellant. The agency had a teleconference with health providers slated for later today, and it provided a toolkit for diagnosing AFM, along with instructions for reporting suspected cases.
"This is actually a pretty dramatic disease", she said. Working with local and state health departments and hospitals, the CDC has been able to confirm a number of these cases faster, she said. Fifteen states said they'd confirmed cases this year.