CDC: ‘Mystery Disease’ Sickening Kids In 22 States, Including New Jersey

Leslie Hanson
October 17, 2018

The CDC says it seems to be following an every other year pattern that emerges in the fall. In particular, the condition can cause weakness in the arms and legs along with loss of muscle tone and problems with reflexes.

But this illness is exceedingly rare, affecting fewer than one in a million people.

Between August 2014 and September 2018, 362 cases were confirmed by the CDC.

Dozens of children across the United States have developed a rare polio-like illness, but the reason for this spike in cases remains a mystery, according to health officials. The average age was 4.

And for now, it's hard to say if 2018 will equal or surpass spikes seen in 2014 and 2016, Messonnier said, adding that state and federal health officials haven't finished the whole diagnostic algorithm for numerous cases reported over the past several weeks. Of these, 62 cases have been confirmed in 22 states.

Some possible causes being investigated by the CDC include enteroviruses, which affect the digestive system, and rhinoviruses - the infectious agents associated with the common cold. Messonnier added that health officials are considering other potential causes, such as West Nile virus and environmental toxins, though none of the cases have involved them.

"That's when children can really deteriorate and end up on a ventilator", Narula explains.


Health officials do not know what's causing the increasing number of cases of AFM. "As a parent myself, I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", she said. The polio-like illness causes limited mobility or paralysis. Though AFM has not claimed any lives this year, there was one death in 2017.

There is no treatment specifically for AFM, but affected children can undergo physical and occupational therapy to maximize their strength and adapt to their limitations.

After testing patients' stool specimens, the CDC determined poliovirus is not the cause of the AFM cases.

Parents can best protect their children from serious diseases by taking prevention steps, such as washing their hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites.

Dr. Leslie Benson, assistant director of Children's pediatric neuroimmunology program, said AFM patients show a wide spectrum of symptoms. Some merely have difficulty moving the eye or the face; some have a single weakening limb.

Some patients recover completely, while others continue to struggle with muscle weakness.

"It's rare, but certainly when you hear about it it's very scary for parents", CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula told "CBS This Morning". Also, she said there can be lags in reporting because of the time it takes to review a patient's clinical syndrome and radiographic findings.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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