7th Case of Rare Disease Diagnosed

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

Since the condition was first recognized by CDC in 2014, the agency has confirmed 362 cases.

Each year since then, usually in August or September, the CDC has logged a spike in the illness. Another spike came in 2016. Though AFM has not claimed any lives this year, there was one death in 2017.

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

The cause of the disorder has not yet been identified.

Among the cases under investigation are five reported to Maryland health officials in recent weeks, a health department spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The CDC urges parents to be aware of this illness and to seek medical care right away if family members develop sudden weakness or loss of muscle tone in the arms or legs.

Messonnier stressed that while she understands how frightening this situation is for parents, they should remember that the infections are, in fact, rare.

Acute flaccid myelitis, also called AFM, is a rare but serious condition that affects the nervous system and causes the muscles and reflexes to suddenly become weak, she said Tuesday. The public health agency also does not fully understand long-term consequences or why some patients recover quickly while others continue to experience weakness.

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"What we have been told is that he's the best case scenario of a hard situation", she said.

Messonnier said that of the cases confirmed this year, none have been related to the polio virus or West Nile virus.

Last year, one child died of the disease. However, experts say that initial indications from a small number of cases suggest a grim outlook. "Our medical team has been reviewing vaccine records when available during this year's investigation and do not see a correlation", said CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund.

People can protect themselves from contracting AFM using methods similar to preventing getting the flu, Ellerin said. CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide variety of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM.

"At this moment, we don't know if it's a virus that is coming and producing direct damage of the gray matter in the spinal cord", he said, "or if a virus is triggering immunological responses that produce a secondary damage in the spinal cord".

Although the disease appears to target a certain age group, federal disease experts do not know who is likely to get acute flaccid myelitis. "So we're very lucky that he had (physical therapy) through early intervention". Some children paralyzed by AFM have eventually regained their ability to walk, but need time. Officials would not say what states they lived in, but cases have been reported in New York, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, and Washington.

CNN reached out to health departments in every state; 48 states responded, plus the District of Columbia.

States are reporting their cases to the CDC, Messonnier said.

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