Two Mass. children contracted rare muscle-weakness syndrome this year, officials say

An electron micrograph of a thin section of EV-D68 a rare enterovirus.									Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Yiting Zhang  CDC

An electron micrograph of a thin section of EV-D68 a rare enterovirus. Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Yiting Zhang CDC

20, the CDC had confirmed 38 cases in 16 states, which aren't required to report AFM cases to the CDC.

BISMARCK, ND - The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is investigating a report of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in a North Dakota child.

The suspected case in Douglas County is still under investigation and confirmation of the diagnosis could take up the three weeks.

Here is what is known about the disease that has had 127 confirmed or suspected cases in 22 states as of Tuesday, including Pennsylvania. The condition affects a person's nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, causing weakness in one or more limbs.

So far across the county, 62 cases of the rare polio-like neurological condition have been reported. Anyone can get the disease but 90% of the reported cases have been in children 18 years old and younger, with the average age being 4 years old.

But this illness is exceedingly rare, affecting fewer than one in a million people.

Because the symptoms are similar, AFM is often confused with polio, a crippling and potentially fatal disease that is caused by a virus.

The CDC said the West Nile virus, adenoviruses, poliovirus and non-polio enteroviruses are also possible reasons why the illness has begun spreading.

Doctors tell us the illness mostly affects children and can cause paralysis. There have now been a total of 386 confirmed cases since 2014. IL health officials said they're working with the CDC to better classify the cases. Between August 2014 and September 2018, 362 cases were confirmed by the CDC.

The CDC would not release a list of the states reporting probable or confirmed cases.

In some cases patients recover from the paralysis, but in others it continues.

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. "Parents need to know that AFM is rare even with the increase in cases we are seeing now". 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.

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for AFM, though the CDC says neurologists may suggest options on a case-by-case basis.

"As we work to better understand what's causing AFM, parents can help protect their children by washing your hands, staying up to date on recommended vaccines and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites", Messonnier said.

The disorder has been diagnosed in unvaccinated children and also in children who have received some of their recommended vaccinations, she said.

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