What parents should know about AFM, the polio-like paralyzing disease

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The cases stretch across 22 states, and most of the patients are children under the age of 18-years-old. Symptom onset is generally quite sudden, and Messonnier urged parents to seek medical care quickly for children displaying these symptoms. In the most severe cases, AFM can cause trouble breathing and may require ventilator support.

"Oftentimes, despite extensive lab tests, the cause of a patient's AFM is not identified". The 2014 AFM outbreak coincided with the largest ever national outbreak of enterovirus D68, but researchers at the CDC and at UT Southwestern have recovered D68 samples from only a small subset of patients.

The season for the illness, when it occurs, appears to be August, September, and October, Benson said.

On a Facebook page dedicated to the disease, one parent posted that her daughter was diagnosed with AFM four years ago after catching enterovirus.

Two cases of the disease - acute flaccid myelitis - have been confirmed in MA with another four cases under investigation. But Messonnier cautioned that it would be "premature" to conclude that this year will be the same as the earlier years.

Parents can help protect their children, Messonnier said, by washing their hands, staying current on immunizations and applying mosquito spray during outdoor play.

Because officials don't know the cause of AFM, they can't recommend a specific way to prevent it.

Because of the nature of the illness' symptoms and the area of the spinal cord it attacks, it is sometimes referred to as a polio-like disease. In 2017 were recorded 21 cases of the disease.

So far, the CDC has found no relationship between vaccines and children diagnosed with AFM from the 2014 cases. The agency said it is very concerned about it.

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"It's very rare, " he added.

CDC officials say they're investigating AFM cases and working with state and local health departments to increase awareness about the disease.

The cause is a mystery but the CDC and other officials have ruled out polio and West Nile virus.

Gregory said, "There's been reports of less than one in a million cases".

"Even if you diagnose it, you're managing symptoms", Rathore said.

According to the CDC, scientists have not yet been able to determine who is most at risk for developing AFM. But so far, no pathogen has been consistently detected in the patients' spinal fluid.

It took several months, lots of research and finding other parents online before Gary took Sophia to see a Dallas specialist, who finally confirmed her diagnosis: acute flaccid myelitis or AFM.

A frustration has been trying to get insurance companies to cover the prolonged physical therapy required. Some children paralyzed by AFM have eventually regained their ability to walk, but need time.

CDC is not releasing a list of the 22 states with confirmed and suspected cases because of privacy issues. "There have been other years that we've seen similar numbers of cases".