Polio-like illness causing paralysis in children reaches the Carolinas

Health officials in 22 states have reported at least 62 confirmed cases of acute flaccid myelitis in 2018 so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because the symptoms are similar, AFM is often confused with polio, a crippling and potentially fatal disease that is caused by a virus.

"A polio-like disease because in the sense that it does involve the same areas in the nervous system", said Dr. Cristina L. Sadowsky, clinical director for the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, with Kennedy Krieger Institute.

"As a parent myself I understand what it's like to be scared for your child", Messonnier said. There have been cases each year since, but the numbers have been higher on alternate years.

The increase in cases has been happening since 2014, with the number of cases spiking in August and September, she said in a news briefing with reporters.

Symptoms include the sudden onset of arm or leg weakness and the loss of muscle tone and reflexes.

She said the CDC and research partners are casting a wide net trying to figure out what is causing the rise in cases, suggesting scientists have been looking at a variety of viruses and even environmental toxins in their search.

Beginning in the summer and fall of 2014, an apparent increase in reports of AFM occurred in the United States. Most of the cases are in children under the age of 19, with kids under the age of 4 appearing to make up the biggest portion of cases. West Nile virus is also not a culprit, she said.

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Asked about the discrepancy between the CDC's report of 22 states versus CNN's report of 30 states with cases, Messonnier said, "the 22 states that we're reporting are the states that have confirmed cases".

The CDC is investigating the outbreak.

The CDC also does not yet know who may be at a higher risk for developing AFM or the long-term consequences of the condition. CDC has tested every stool specimen from every AFM patient. No one finding can explain all the cases, she said. No pathogen has been consistently detected in the patients' spinal fluid.

That's when we spoke with the families of 4-year-old Camdyn Carr, who's now fighting the disease, and 7-year-old Sebastian Bottomley, who previously fought AFM.

The CDC is investigating the cases and monitoring the disease, and encourages people to prevent the disease by staying up to date on vaccines, washing hands and protecting against mosquito bites.

Acute flaccid myelitis affects the spinal cord and can cause partial paralysis. But, if their child is diagnosed, parents should prepare for extensive physical therapy - therapy that isn't always covered by insurance, he said. Officials would not say what states they lived in, but cases have been reported in New York, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, and Washington. Some children paralyzed by AFM have eventually regained their ability to walk, but need time.

Dana Hedgpeth and Justin Wm.

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