Polio-like illness causing paralysis in children reaches the Carolinas

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CNN has reported that this year, more than half of all US states have had confirmed or possible cases, including North and SC.

There are now 62 confirmed reports of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, across 22 states in the USA, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90 percent of the confirmed cases have been in children 18 and younger, with the average age being 4 years old.

Dr. Mobeen Rathore, an infectious disease specialist at UF Health, told News4Jax on Tuesday that it's unclear whether any cases have been confirmed in Florida, but it is being investigated in the state.

There is no specific treatment for the disorder, and long-term outcomes are unknown.

AFM is an illness that affects the nervous system, specifically the area of spinal cord called gray matter.

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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.

Maryland health officials said their first case was reported to them September 21. Officials have been unable to determine why the spikes are coming in waves.

CDC officials say they haven't found the cause. "Parents need to know that AFM is very rare, even with the increase in cases that we are seeing now". Symptom onset is generally quite sudden, and Messonnier urged parents to seek medical care quickly for children displaying these symptoms. "Most AFM cases occur in the late summer and fall", which she referred to as "seasonal clustering".

Lacking an established cause, health officials confirm cases through a review of brain scans and symptoms. But Messonnier cautioned that it would be "premature" to be confident that this year will be the same as the earlier years. But the data reported Tuesday represents "a substantially larger number than in previous months this year", Messonnier said.

AFM is extremely rare, with the CDC estimating that less than one in a million people in the United States will get AFM every year. Numbers dropped drastically in 2015 and 2017 - to 22 and 33, respectively - but were back up again in 2016 at 149.

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

This year, five children in Maryland have come down with AFM symptoms, according to the Maryland Department of Health.

The CDC said the condition isn't new, "but the increase in cases we saw starting in 2014 is new". Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states.

But the agency doesn't know who may be at higher risk nor why they may be at higher risk.

She said that CDC has tested every stool specimen from AFM patients. But Messonnier said that, in general, parents can help protect their children from diseases by washing their hands, making sure their children are up to date with vaccinations and applying insect repellent to protect against mosquito bites, which can spread viruses.

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