ATLANTA — There is an uptick in a mysterious illness impacting children.
It is raising some serious red flags with the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers.
The rare disease is called acute flaccid myelitis or "AFM" and is similar to polio.
Minnesota's health department has reported six cases of the illness since last month.
The CDC says it starts as a common cold, but later partially paralyzes children.
"Weakness in your arms and in your legs, slurred speech, and facial drooping," Janette Nesheiwat said,
She said anyone with symptoms should see a doctor right away.
Right now, there is no cure for the illness.
Since 2014, CDC has learned the following about the AFM cases:
Most patients are children.
The patients’ symptoms have been most similar to complications of infection with certain viruses, including poliovirus, non-polio enteroviruses, adenoviruses, and West Nile virus.
Enteroviruses most commonly cause mild illness. They can also cause neurologic illness, such as meningitis, encephalitis, and AFM, but these are rare.
CDC has tested many different specimens from AFM patients for a wide range of pathogens (germs) that can cause AFM. To date, no pathogen (germ) has been consistently detected in the patients’ spinal fluid; a pathogen detected in the spinal fluid would be good evidence to indicate the cause of AFM since this condition affects the spinal cord.
- Among the people who were diagnosed with AFM since August 2014:
- The cause of most of the AFM cases remains unknown.
- We don't know what caused the increase in AFM cases starting in 2014.
- We have not yet determined who is at higher risk for developing AFM, or the reasons why they may be at higher risk.
- We do not yet know the long-term effects of AFM. We know that some patients diagnosed with AFM have recovered quickly, and some continue to have paralysis and require ongoing care.
CDC is actively investigating AFM cases and monitoring disease activity. We are working closely with healthcare providers and state and local health departments to increase awareness for AFM. We are encouraging healthcare providers to recognize and report suspected cases of AFM to their health departments, and for health departments to send this information to CDC to help us understand the nationwide burden of AFM. CDC is also actively looking for risk factors and possible causes of this condition.
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