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Case of mysterious paralyzing illness reported in Kentucky, Ohio

19 October 2018

Health officials in Iowa have confirmed the second case of a rare condition that impacts the nervous system, mainly the spinal cord.

Health officials in Oklahoma say an Oklahoma child has been diagnosed with a polio-like illness that is sweeping the country.

First recognized in 2014, AFM remains mysterious.

Last year the number dropped to 16, making the pattern one that hits harder every other year. "At this time, the exact causes or source of this disease is unknown". Other symptoms include: facial droop/weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, or difficulty swallowing or slurred speech.

The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily. Fewer than one in a million get the disease.

AFM cases tend to start in August, peak in October and taper off by December, according to the CDC. More than 90% of cases are in patients 18 or younger, with an average age of 4 years old.

Health officials do not know what's causing the increasing number of cases of AFM. Her eight-year-old son Liam got a terrible cold in 2014 but then recovered, but her six-year-old daughter, Lydia, developed a cold and fever that seemed to linger forever, says Pilarowski, a Denver pediatrician.

She said the CDC and research partners are casting a wide net trying to figure out what is causing the rise in cases, suggesting scientists have been looking at a variety of viruses and even environmental toxins in their search.

Some victims have been infected with viruses, but researchers have been unable to identify a single virus responsible for all cases.

The first cases of AFM coincided with an unusually severe outbreak of a common virus that affects the lungs or gut. But the link between AFM and EV-D68 is unclear because not everyone who has AFM tests positive for the enterovirus.

"This is truly a mystery disease", Messonnier told CBS News. While there is no specific treatment for AFM, doctors may recommend certain interventions on a case-by-case basis. She said West Nile virus has not been linked to any of these cases, either.

As far as prevention, doctors recommend the polio vaccine but also say to practice good hygiene. Officials said some patients diagnosed with AFM recover quickly, while others need ongoing care.

Kate Fowlie, a spokeswoman for the CDC, said in an email that many states are voluntarily reporting their data on the disease and that "many parents are coming forward to tell their stories". Minnesota has seen seven cases in children this year alone.

What is acute flaccid myelitis? Ninety percent of the cases have been in children, she says.

The CDC is investigating 127 reported cases, including the ones that have been confirmed. The symptoms tend to occur about a week after they had a fever and respiratory illness.

Most kids who contract an enterovirus only suffer an upper-respiratory infection, Pardo-Villamizar and Dominguez said.

Case of mysterious paralyzing illness reported in Kentucky, Ohio