Cases of mysterious paralyzing illness reported in 22 states

U.S. health officials have issued a warning about a rare condition which attacks the nervous system and spinal cord after 62 new cases of the little-known disease were confirmed across 22 states.

AFM is an illness that affects the nervous system, causing muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak or even paralyzed.

The spinal cord condition is caused by a polio-like enterovirus and manifests with similar symptoms, particularly muscle weakness and partial paralysis. The CDC estimates it affects only 1 out of 1 million people in the United States. The CDC knows of one child who died with the disorder in 2017.

The CDC has been tracking cases of AFM since a noted spike in 2014.

"We know this can be frightening for parents, and I know many parents want to know what signs and symptoms they should be looking out for in their children", she said.

Other enteroviruses have also been found in patients with AFM. She also said West Nile virus hasn't been linked to any of these cases, either.

Doctors don't know much about AFM and the lack of answers is what is worrying Doug and Mary Finke. "None of the specimens have tested positive for poliovirus".

More broadly, she noted, "there is a lot we don't know about AFM".

People can protect themselves from contracting AFM using methods similar to preventing getting the flu, Ellerin said. In some cases, patients recover quickly.

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

Last week, a doctor at Kennedy Krieger told WJZ that their hospital is treating two possible cases there. But some states have previously announced clusters, including Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, New York and Washington.

In an email Tuesday, Maryland Department of Health spokeswoman Brittany Fowler said the CDC will "make a determination about the status of the cases" in Maryland "based on clinical and laboratory information". "There's going to be a delay, a lag in the timing of some of these reports". Then in 2016, there were 149 confirmed cases. There have been cases each year since, but the numbers have been higher on alternate years.

The increase in cases has been happening since 2014, with the number of cases spiking in August and September, she said in a news briefing with reporters.

AFM is still extremely rare. In 2016, 22 across 17 states in 2015 and 120 across 34 states in 2014. The CDC actually doesn't know what causes the disease or much about it at all. "This is a mystery so far, and we haven't solved it yet, so we have to be thinking broadly". It's acting very much like a post-viral neurological syndrome, but we can't say for sure that it is because we don't have any definitive isolation.

Parents have reported that the limbs of affected children appear lifeless.

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