CDC says rare polio-like disease could be spreading

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There have been 386 reported cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)-a serious condition that causes weakness in the arms or legs-in the US between August 2014 and September 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This graph depicts the confirmed cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been made aware of as of October 16, 2018, with onset of the condition through September 30, 2018. Sixty-two of these cases have already been confirmed in 22 states by the CDC, with more still under investigation.

The average age of patients confirmed to have the condition is just 4 years old, and more than 90% of cases overall occur in children 18 and younger, according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the agency's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) says there are 10 suspected cases of AFM in the state.

While it's a worrying condition, it affects less than one in a million people in the United States each year.

"CDC is actively investigating AFM cases and monitoring disease activity", the agency said. In very rare cases, it is possible that the process in the body that triggers AFM may also trigger other serious neurologic complications that could lead to death, according to the CDC. The cause is unknown.

EV-D68 is an enterovirus, a distant relative of the poliovirus.

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Despite extensive laboratory testing, we have not determined what pathogen or immune response caused the arm or leg weakness and paralysis in most patients.

The CDC is open to the possibility that it's not a virus that is causing the condition, but can not find any other plausible cause, either.

Most of the AFM cases that the CDC has studied have no indication of any particular infection.

Health officials say there are several potential causes of the condition, including certain viruses, environmental toxins, and genetic disorders. "That's something that we're still really learning about", Jones said.

"There are multiple different viruses that can cause this syndrome", Greenberg said. Zika is one of the most notorious recent examples.

People should also try to not get bitten by mosquitos-especially in countries where the mosquitos carry the West Nile virus-by using repellent, staying indoors at dusk and dawn, and removing standing or stagnant water near where they're living. When it infects pregnant women, the Zika virus can go into the brains of the developing fetuses and cause permanent damage.

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