CDC expresses concern over mysterious surge in polio-like paralysis cases

Department of Public Health confirms case of polio-like disease in Massachusetts

Department of Public Health confirms case of polio-like disease in Massachusetts

"We have not been able to find a cause for the majority of these AFM cases", Messonnier admitted.

Messonnier said that of the cases confirmed this year, none have been related to the polio virus or West Nile virus.

Five children in Maryland have contracted symptoms of a virus similar to polio this fall, according to the state health department.

Across the US there were 38 confirmed cases in 16 states this year through September 30, according to the CDC.

The condition affects the nervous system and has polio-like symptoms.

There is no specific treatment for AFM, but neurologists who specialize in treating brain and spinal cord illnesses may recommend certain interventions, such as physical or occupational therapy, on a case-by-case basis. Though AFM has not claimed any lives this year, there was one death in 2017.

Physicians first began noticing an increase in AFM patients in 2014, with roughly 120 confirmed cases. But she stressed that despite the increase in cases, the illness is still very rare, occurring in fewer than 1 in a million people in the USA each year.

The agency says there are several possible causes, including "viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders".

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

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For example, the CDC doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or why some are at higher risk, she said.

More broadly, she noted, "there is a lot we don't know about AFM".

Compiled from The Associated Press and The Minnesota Department of Health. The public health agency also does not fully understand long-term consequences or why some patients recover quickly while others continue to experience weakness.

Lacking an established cause, health officials confirm cases through a review of brain scans and symptoms. Then in 2016, there were 149 confirmed cases.

"This is actually a pretty dramatic disease", she said.

It's possible that some milder cases haven't been reported by doctors to their state health department or the CDC, but Messonnier believes that number would be small.

The CDC urges parents to be aware of this illness and to seek medical care right away if family members develop sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms or legs.

The CDC is investigating the cases and monitoring the disease, and encourages people to prevent the disease by staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and protecting against mosquito bites.

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