AFM in 22 states: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Parents in the metro are on guard after officials with the Douglas County Health Department revealed that there is a child in Douglas County possibly showing symptoms of a rare polio-like condition called acute flaccid myelitis or AFM.

There have been no confirmed cases of AFM in Maine this year, according to Emily Spencer, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine CDC.

So far 62 of the cases-marked by sudden onset of limb weakness and decreased muscle tone-have been confirmed, Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said today at a media briefing.

AFM affects the nervous system, specifically part of the spinal cord often causing polio-like symptoms.

There are now more than 125 confirmed or suspected cases of acute flaccid myelitis - the "mystery illness" that's been affecting children across the U.S. and leaving them paralyzed.

The number of cases in 2018 is on track to match a similar number of cases in 2014 and 2016. "There is a lot we don't know about AFM, and I'm frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness".

"Overall, the rate of AFM over the years that it has been diagnosed which is since 2014 is less than one in a million."
What happens to patients down the line is unclear; some recover quickly, while others may need long-term care. Most of the cases have occurred in children.

Messonnier stressed that while she understands how frightening this situation is for parents, they should remember that the infections are, in fact, rare.

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CDC officials say some possible suspected causes, like polio and West Nile virus, have been ruled out.

Another potential cause of AFM is a type of enterovirus called EV D68, Todd said. "For some of the previous cases we've identified one pathogen or another, but we have no unifying diagnosis".

But the agency doesn't know who may be at higher risk nor why they may be at higher risk.

Although some AFM patients tested positive for an enterovirus, indicating a possible link, not all had the virus. The average age of those afflicted is 4, and 90 percent of those with AFM are 18 or younger.

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

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for AFM, though the CDC says neurologists may suggest options on a case-by-case basis. It could be potentially deadly if the diaphragm is paralyzed because the child would be unable to breathe.

The disease made headlines recently when news broke of cases in Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Iowa and other states. It's a rare disease, but the CDC thought that they might glean more about the nature of the outbreak, as well as clues about how to contain it, by releasing a report to the public. So far, it's been reported in 22 states.

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