Rare Polio-like Mystery Illness Investigated by CDC

Acute Flaccid Myelitis

Acute Flaccid Myelitis

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday that there are 155 patients under investigation this year for acute flaccid myelitis, a condition that that can cause paralysis and mostly affects children.

Dr. Jeremy Friedman, pediatrician-in-chief at the Hospital for Sick Children, wouldn't give an exact number, but said doctors at the Toronto hospital have seen less than 20 cases of limb-based paralysis since the beginning of September - with about a dozen of them confirmed as acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

Since the first wave of AFM cases in 2014, the CDC has confirmed 386 cases of AFM. There is no specific treatment for the disorder, whose confirmed cases have seen a significant increase this year.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) says there are 10 suspected cases of AFM in the state.

The agency tracked 120 cases of AFM in 2014 (the year the outbreaks started).

"This remains a rare syndrome, but the similarities to poliomyelitis, polio-like illness, are concerning and bear close monitoring", says Dr Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, according to Yahoo!

"We have not been able to find the cause of the majority of AFM cases", the CDC's Dr. Nancy Messonnier told reporters on Thursday. Many are calling AFM a "polio-like" illness, because it causes weakness and paralysis in childrens' arms and legs.

While it's speculative, many doctors believe those who develop AFM may have an underlying genetic predisposition to the condition. There are hundreds of species of virus that infect people and many cause common cold-like symptoms.

The CDC is open to the possibility that it's not a virus that is causing the condition, but can not find any other plausible cause, either.

AFM cases on the rise in the U.S. Story continues below video.

Messonnier said other viruses besides EV-D68 have been found in patients with AFM. "That's something that we're still really learning about", Jones said. Zika is one of the most notorious recent examples. "We try to keep muscles and joints as healthy as possible so that when the nervous system is repairing itself, it will have adequate muscle to connect to", Greenberg said. They include West Nile virus, Jamestown Canyon virus, Lacrosse virus, Powassan virus, St. Louis encephalitis and Eastern equine encephalitis.

To protect against contracting AFM, the CDC recommends that people stay up to date on their vaccines, wash their hands, and protect against mosquito bites.

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