The CDC has not traced the illness to a specific virus, but the agency said it has a variety of causes including viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders.
"What parents have to know is if your child suddenly has a weak arm or leg, is not speaking properly, has a stiff neck or a wobbly neck - call the doctor immediately", pediatrician Dr. Laura Popper said. None of the USA patients tested positive for polio, a crippling and often deadly disease which was eliminated in this country thanks to the polio vaccine. Symptoms include muscle weakness, droopy eyelids, problems swallowing, and slurred speech. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states.
"This remains a rare syndrome, but the similarities to poliomyelitis, polio-like illness, are concerning and bear close monitoring", Dr. Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, told ABC News in an interview. No one knows what causes AFM, although a virus or viruses are suspected. "We recommend seeking medical care right away if you or your child develop sudden weakness of the arms and legs".
The medical name is Acute Flaccid Myelitis, or AFM. It is a rare, but serious condition - fewer than one in a million Americans will get AFM every year, the CDC estimates.
"A doctor can examine a patient's nervous system and the places on the body where he or she has weakness, poor muscle tone, and decreased reflexes". A Tennessee mother said her child was the latest diagnosis.
"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.
According to the CDC, the most severe cases of AFM can lead to respiratory failure and even death. "And he's had a lot of support at school with physical therapy".
The CDC encourages people to prevent the disease by staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and protecting against mosquito bites. Some children paralyzed by AFM have eventually regained their ability to walk, but need time.
Now 3 years old, Hunter has slowly recovered.
Officials said they will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases.
The following year, there were 22 confirmed cases in 17 states, and 2016 saw 149 cases in 39 jurisdictions, including D.C. In 2017 there were 33 confirmed cases in 16 states.
Dana Hedgpeth and Justin Wm.
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