CDC: Mysterious paralyzing illness reported in 22 states

This year, more than half of all USA states have had confirmed or possible cases of acute flaccid myelitis, the polio-like illness that can cause paralysis and mostly affects children, according to an exclusive CNN analysis.

The Minnesota Department of Health says a seventh child has been struck by a rare, paralyzing illness that has been reported across the country.

"As a parent myself I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", Messonnier said. Officials will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases.

The number of cases in 2018 is on track to match a similar number of cases in 2014 and 2016.

The CDC says to be on the lookout for the onset of arm or leg weakness, and loss of muscle tone and reflexes.

"Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause", Messonnier said, dispelling reports that AFM was possibly linked to polio.

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

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

The CDC will determine whether the suspected cases in Maryland are AFM based on clinical information and lab tests, a spokeswoman for the state health department said in an email. "Our medical team has been reviewing vaccine records when available during this year's investigation and do not see a correlation", said CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund.

Asked about the discrepancy between the CDC's report of 22 states versus CNN's report of 30 states with cases, Messonnier said, "the 22 states that we're reporting are the states that have confirmed cases".

The CDC also does not yet know who may be at a higher risk for developing AFM or the long-term consequences of the condition.

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. CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide variety of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM.

"Any weakness, including trouble swallowing, weakness of an extremity, especially in a child who has recently gone through signs of an infection, those would be the main red flags", said Sarah Hopkins.

"It attacked [my child's] body and her spinal cord a certain way that seems to be happening to other kids too", said Josh Payne, the parent of a child battling AFM. But, if their child is diagnosed, parents should prepare for extensive physical therapy - therapy that isn't always covered by insurance, he said. It's also important to note that the number of known or suspected cases is small, so the odds of contracting the illness are extremely low. Nor can they explain why only a handful of infected children developed AFM. But some state health departments, such as Minnesota's, have reported the numbers.

Washington Post writers Dana Hedgpeth and Justin Wm.

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