Medicine

Arizona health officials confirm 2 cases of rare illness paralyzing kids

Arizona health officials confirm 2 cases of rare illness paralyzing kids

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating whether these children are infected with acute flaccid myelitis, a rare neurological illness.

However, officials have not been able to identify the cause of most of the AFM cases, or the reason for the spikes in 2014, 2016 and now 2018.

"Despite a lot of investigation by CDC and our partners, AFM remains a mystery disease", said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases for the CDC.

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

In a press briefing Tuesday, officials talked about an increase in cases of acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) this year. Sixty-two cases are confirmed. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states.

Many other aspects of the illness remain unknown, including what factors puts a person at risk of becoming ill and the long-term consequences.

Here is what is known about the disease that has had 127 confirmed or suspected cases in 22 states as of Tuesday, including Pennsylvania.

According to the CDC, the number of patients with AFM symptoms increases each year in August and September. Some also experience facial droop, difficulty moving the eyes, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, or slurred speech.

"A doctor can examine a patient's nervous system and the places on the body where he or she has weakness, poor muscle tone, and decreased reflexes".

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While AFM is incredibly rare, the current rate is less than one case for every 1 million Americans, Messonnier urged parents and health care providers to be on the lookout for symptoms.

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

About 90 percent of the cases have involved paralysis, according to the CDC.

Health officials are able to confirm cases through a review of brain scans and symptoms.

State health officials in Minnesota issued an alert to doctors this month after six children there were diagnosed with AFM. The disorder has been diagnosed in children who have received some of their recommended vaccinations and in unvaccinated children, she said.

In a few cases, it appears that the illnesses were linked to viruses, including enterovirus. Numbers dropped drastically in 2015 and 2017 - to 22 and 33, respectively - but were back up again in 2016 at 149.

"Families really sticking with it are seeing slow but steady recovery", he said.

Other states with cases included Colorado, Illinois and Washington.