Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have taken the significant step of issuing a public warning about an outbreak of a mysterious new disease that causes symptoms that are eerily similar to polio, reports the Washington Post.
Kate Fowlie, a spokeswoman for the CDC, said in an email that many states are voluntarily reporting their data on the disease and that "many parents are coming forward to tell their stories".
20, the CDC had confirmed 38 cases in 16 states, which aren't required to report AFM cases to the CDC.
The average age of the patients in all confirmed cases over the past five years is just 4 years old, and more than 90% of the cases overall occur in children 18 and younger, according to analysis of cases reported in recent years.
The CDC has been tracking cases of AFM since a noted spike in 2014.
Health experts say acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is a polio-like syndrome that affects the nervous system, specifically the spinal cord.
I really don't mean to scare you, but I was very frightened when I read about this disease, and I feel it's important to bring awareness to this scary condition that has only recently made itself known. It is a rare, but serious condition - fewer than one in a million Americans will get AFM every year, the CDC estimates.
State and national health authorities are raising the alarm about a polio-like "mystery illness" that has left dozens of children with paralysis and other symptoms in MA and 21 other states.
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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.
Messonnier urged parents to seek care right away if children experience AFM symptoms.
There is no specific treatment for the disorder, and long-term outcomes are unknown. Sixty-two cases of the rare but serious condition have now been confirmed in 22 states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
"In most (AFM) cases, there appears to be what we call residual weakness, where the patient is unfortunately weak for a long period of time and may not recover or may not recover completely", said Dr. John Modlin, a Dartmouth College professor emeritus who is now the deputy director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's effort to eradicate polio.
Maryland health officials said their first case was reported to them September 21.
The outlook for patients with AFM can vary from a quick recovery to ongoing paralysis, Messonnier said. Then in 2016, there were 149 confirmed cases.
"Early intervention is definitely always helpful".