The surge has baffled health officials, who on Tuesday announced a change in the way the agency is counting cases. The symptoms tend to occur about a week after they had a fever and respiratory illness. "At this time, the exact causes or source of this disease is unknown".
The cause of the disorder has not yet been identified.
Possible causes being considered include viruses that affect the digestive system called enteroviruses, and possibly strains of rhinoviruses, which cause the common cold, she said. According to data supplied by the CDC, the illness seems to spike around the month of September.
The number of confirmed cases has been on the rise since late 2014, when there were 120 confirmed cases from August to December in 34 states. But Messonnier cautioned that it would be "premature" to be confident that this year will be the same as the earlier years.
Nancy Messonnier, a doctor at the CDC, called it a "mystery illness".
"We need to pay attention to this, because the long-term consequences the children and their parents suffer is vast", said Dr. Carlos Pardo-Villamizar, a neurological disease expert with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
First recognized in 2014, AFM remains mysterious.
"As a parent myself I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", Messonnier said.
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Danielle Finkle, a mother from IL who was interviewed, said about her son: "He came to me and he's supporting his left arm with his right arm, and he says, 'Mommy my arm's broke'".
He stresses that the condition is still extremely rare with only one in a million children now diagnosed.
Enterovirus D68 has been linked to some of the human cases of the disease, and although it is not the only cause, it has clearly been a driving force behind the three recent outbreaks, says Kevin Messacar, an infectious disease physician and researcher at Children's Hospital Colorado. But the season has not ended, and several possible AFM cases remain under investigation. She said the average age of AFM patients is 4. Limb paralysis caused by the illness can worsen quickly, so it's also important that individuals experiencing these symptoms receive prompt medical attention.
That brings the total number of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) patients now being treated at UPMC Children's to six. He can hit them with an electric shock akin to touching a auto battery, he says, but they do not move.
Medical experts have unable to find a cause nor have they been able to determine who is at risk.
The CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide variety of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM.
To help prevent the illness' spread, the CDC advises proper hand washing, staying up to date on vaccines and using mosquito repellent to avoid bites.
The overall rate of AFM is fewer than one in a million, she said. There has been one AFM-related death, which happened in 2017.