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Cases of mysterious paralyzing illness reported in 22 states

17 October 2018

The MDH says the case is now being reviewed, and did not provide information regarding where in the state this particular case was diagnosed, or whether or not the child is in the hospital.

A rare condition causing weakness in the arms or legs - and sometimes paralysis - has been confirmed in 62 children so far this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. Symptoms include muscle weakness, droopy eyelids, problems swallowing, and slurred speech.

There are now more than 125 confirmed or suspected cases of acute flaccid myelitis - the "mystery illness" that's been affecting children across the United States and leaving them paralyzed. Disease investigators believe this was linked to an outbreak of a respiratory illness in children that was caused by a virus known as enterovirus D 68 (EVD68). The first case in Maryland this year was contracted September 21, a spokeswoman for the department said in an email.

The condition affects the nervous system and has polio-like symptoms. One child died from AFM in 2017. Cases of AFM are characterized by a sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and loss of muscle tone and reflexes. "Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause of these AFM cases".

Besides viruses, officials are also considering environmental toxins as a possible cause, but so far, they have no evidence that a particular toxin is behind the cases.

For example, the CDC doesn't know who may be at higher risk for developing AFM or why some are at higher risk, she said.

"We know this can be frightening for parents", Messonnier said. Despite extensive laboratory and other testing, CDC has been unable to find the cause for the majority of the cases.

On Monday, CNN reached out to health departments in every state and received responses from 48 states plus the District of Columbia.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, updated the media and public via a conference call on Tuesday. Officials said some patients diagnosed with AFM recover quickly, while others need ongoing care. Cases have been reported from the Twin Cities, central Minnesota and northeastern Minnesota.

Working with local and state health departments and hospitals, the CDC has been able to confirm a number of these cases faster, she said.

There have been no confirmed cases of AFM in Maine this year, according to Emily Spencer, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine CDC.

Cases of mysterious paralyzing illness reported in 22 states