CDC, partners probe 127 polio-like cases in 22 states

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Outbreaks appear to follow an every-other-year pattern with another sharp rise in 2016, primarily in late summer and early fall. "And I'm frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we have not been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness".

Potential symptoms of AFM (for example, if someone is not using an arm), should be reported to the individual's health care provider as soon as possible. Additional symptoms include facial drooping or weakness, difficulty moving the eyes, difficulty swallowing and slurred speech.

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One thing scientists do know is that only one person in a million is infected with AFM each year in the United States.

About 120 confirmed cases were reported in 2014.

The CDC says pediatric acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is now affecting young children in 22 states following a recent spike in Minnesota.

Roughly 90 percent of the cases so far have involved children, who suffer from muscle weakness or paralysis that impacts face, neck, back or limbs.

Doctors say the most serious cases can lead to respiratory failure.

The CDC says the illness could be caused by viruses, environmental toxins, genetic disorders, or a condition in which the immune system attacks body tissues.

In research developments, a team based at the J. Craig Venter Institute conducted experiments to see if a specific EV-D68 genotype is linked to neurologic symptoms and found that some viruses from the 2014 outbreak can infect neuronal cells.

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"That's when children can really deteriorate and end up on a ventilator", Narula said.

"At this time we don't have a way to determine which children may be at an elevated risk for developing AFM, or the underlying explanation that predisposes them to develop AFM in the first place", he said.

Health experts have ruled out some causes, including poliovirus and West Nile virus.

The federal agency said similar waves of the illness occurred in 2014 and 2016. Though AFM has not claimed any lives this year, there was one death in 2017.

There is no treatment specifically for AFM, but affected children can undergo physical and occupational therapy to maximize their strength and adapt to their limitations.

"Numbness or tingling is rare in people with AFM, although some people have pain in their arms or legs". Parents who want to protect their children should encourage the same sort of good hygiene that protects kids against cold and flu, such as washing their hands frequently and covering coughs or sneezes, Dominguez said.

"Most of the cases continue to occur in children", according to its website.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a warning to parents on Wednesday, urging them to recognize the symptoms of AFM.

"The CDC has now categorized the case as AFM", Department of Health spokesman Tony Sellars said.

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