A rare condition causing weakness in the arms or legs - and sometimes paralysis - has been confirmed in 62 children so far this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
However, officials have not been able to identify the cause of most of the AFM cases, or the reason for the spikes in 2014, 2016 and now 2018.
There is no specific treatment for AFM. Specifically, the disease affects the area of the spinal cord called gray matter. It mostly afflicts children and young adults and can be caused by toxins in one's environment, genetic disorders or viruses such as poliovirus, West Nile virus or adenovirus.
In some cases children have recovered, but in others the paralysis has lingered. There has been one AFM-related death, which happened in 2017. 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.
The agency also said it will post case count updates on its website every week now, a change from the monthly updates it had been giving.
"At first they were not sure the symptoms were real because it came so suddenly, and that weakness comes and often times it persists and that's when the parents take their child to go see the doctor for the treatments available, but that's the pattern, sudden onset painless weakness", Gupta said. Still, if a child experiences sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in their arms or legs, parents should seek medical care right away, she said.
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In 2014, a large AFM epidemic coincided with a national outbreak of severe respiratory illness caused by enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), but in-depth testing of patient samples hasn't consistently found a common cause.
The CDC began tracking the condition in 2014, when there were 120 confirmed cases. So far, 2016 was the worst year, with 149 confirmed cases.
The cases this year seem to be spread across much of the country, as were the earlier two waves.
"This is actually a pretty dramatic disease", Messonnier told reporters on Tuesday.
Parents and clinicians should remember that this is a rare condition, affecting less than one in a million people, she said.
Mary said, "We have a 9-year-old grandson that we worry about and other grandchildren and we just don't know enough about it".
It's a debilitating, mystery illness.and it's spreading. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states.