CDC: 'Mystery illness' leaving dozens of children paralyzed

Cases of Mysterious Paralyzing Illness Acute Flaccid Myelitis Reported in 22 states

Cases of Mysterious Paralyzing Illness Acute Flaccid Myelitis Reported in 22 states

The CDC is investigating 127 reported cases, including the ones that have been confirmed. IL health officials said they're working with the CDC to better classify the cases.

"We know this can be frightening for parents", said Dr. NancyMessonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

But what is particularly confounding doctors is that the number of cases spikes only every other year - with larger numbers in 2014, 2016 and this year - and fewer cases in 2015 and 2017.

"Despite extensive laboratory testing, we have not determined what pathogen or immune response caused the arm or leg weakness and paralysis in most patients", she said.

"Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now", Messonnier said.

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

Some patients have quickly recovered, but one child who contracted AFM - which affects the nervous system via the spinal cord - died a year ago.

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.

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The disease is extremely rare, with the CDC estimating that less than one in a million people in the United States will get AFM every year. The benefit of seeking medical care is to attend to kids' symptoms, which can include respiratory failure, Science News reports, but there is now no cure for AFM.

All of the worries about AFM just give parents and grandparents one more thing to worry about. Neurological conditions like it have a variety of causes, such as viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders.

Fox 2/KPLR 11's Dan Gray talked to an infectious disease specialist who said the disease isn't new but should be considered a growing health concern. But the link between AFM and EV-D68 is unclear because not everyone who has AFM tests positive for the enterovirus.

Some patients diagnosed with AFM recover quickly, while some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care, Messonnier said.

They also know that all six children developed the disease around the same time. Officials would not say what states they lived in, but cases have been reported in New York, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, and Washington.

Her mother said she probably won't be 100 percent back to herself but, through physical therapy, she is hoping for the best.

"What we have been told is that he's the best case scenario of a hard situation", she said.

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