Cases of mysterious paralyzing illness reported in 22 states

NEW YORK (AP) -- Health officials are reporting a jump in cases of a rare paralyzing illness in children, and say it seems to be following an every-other-year pattern.

At least 62 confirmed cases have been reported in 22 states this year, and an additional 65 illnesses in those states are being investigated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similar waves of the same illness occurred in 2014 and 2016.

“This is a mystery so far,” the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier said in a call Tuesday with reporters.

About 90 percent of the cases are children who have suffered muscle weakness or paralysis, including in the face, neck, back or limbs. The symptoms tend to occur about a week after they had a fever and respiratory illness.

It is “a pretty dramatic disease,” but fortunately most kids recover, Messonnier said.

Health officials call the condition acute flaccid myelitis. The CDC would not release a list of the states reporting probable or confirmed cases. But some states have previously announced clusters, including Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, New York and Washington.

The cases in 2014 and 2016 were partly attributed to particular strains of respiratory germs called enteroviruses, which spread the most in the summer and fall.

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>>Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) Fact Sheet

Most people infected with enteroviruses suffer only minor symptoms like cough and runny nose. And though enteroviruses have been detected in some paralysis cases, it hasn’t been found in others, CDC officials say.

Lacking an established cause, health officials confirm cases through a review of brain scans and symptoms.

About 120 confirmed cases were reported in 2014. Another 149 were reported in 2016. In 2015 and 2017, the counts of reported illnesses were far lower.

The cases this year seem to be spread across much of the country, as were the earlier two waves. But mysteriously no other country has reported the emerging every-two-years pattern seen in the U.S., Messonnier said.

In Arizona, Melissa Blasius-Nuanez with the Arizona Department of Health Services said Tuesday there are two confirmed cases of AFM in Arizona, but they are unrelated to a cluster reported in Minnesota.

Symptoms of AFM, possible causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment:
www.cdc.gov/acute-flaccid-myelitis

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