U.S. health officials have issued a warning about a rare condition which attacks the nervous system and spinal cord after 62 new cases of the little-known disease were confirmed across 22 states.
A mysterious illness that's sickening and even paralyzing children is prompting warnings this week from federal health officials to seek medical care immediately should anyone develop its symptoms.
Officials at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City said two cases of AFM have been confirmed at the hospital.
Most of the cases are in children who have suffered muscle weakness or paralysis, including in the face, neck, back or limbs.
So far across the county, 62 cases of the rare polio-like neurological condition have been reported. More than 90% of cases are in patients 18 or younger, with an average age of 4 years old.
"Nobody really knows treatment protocols, they don't know prognosis, and they can't really give parents an answer as to where this is coming from", she said.
While it may be on the rise, the disease is still extremely rare, affecting just about one in a million. There was one death of a child who had AFM, in 2017, said Messonnier.
"We're looking really broadly at any possible cause", the CDC's Dr. Messonnier said, "so we're looking at anything that might be causing the AFM, because our earlier investigations haven't revealed the cause". Specifically, the disease affects the area of the spinal cord called gray matter.
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AFM is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system, causing muscles to weaken. Of those, 30 states said they had cases that were confirmed, suspected or being investigated - including 15 states that said they had confirmed cases in 2018.
Doctors don't know much about AFM and the lack of answers is what is worrying Doug and Mary Finke.
Cases nationwide may have gone up since 2014, but Wisconsin didn't see its first case until 2016, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
The CDC is investigating 127 reported cases, including the ones that have been confirmed.
On the CDC's website, it lists symptoms of the disease, which include facial droop/weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, or difficulty with swallowing or slurred speech. Several cases have been linked to enteroviruses or other germs, but officials have not been able to find a cause for the majority of the cases.
People can protect themselves from contracting AFM using methods similar to preventing getting the flu, Ellerin said. "Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause of these AFM cases". The CDC says an outbreak in 2014 seemed to coincide with an outbreak of enterovirus D68, however the virus wasn't found in every AFM patient.
"So it is primarily a disease of the children", she said.