The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is warning about a rare mysterious illness affecting American children, which can cause "polio-like" symptoms.
The Department of Public Health has confirmed the second MA case this year of a rare but potentially devastating illness that strikes mostly children and causes muscle weakness or paralysis.
Since the cases were first recognized in 2014, there have been 386 cases in the United States, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters.
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. So far, the number of cases in 2018 is similar to the number reported in 2014 and 2016, Messonnier said.
"Right now, we know that poliovirus is not the cause of these AFM cases", Messonnier said.
The overall rate of AFM is fewer than one in a million, she said. But Messonnier said that, in general, parents can help protect their children from diseases by washing their hands, making sure their children are up to date with vaccinations and applying insect repellent to protect against mosquito bites, which can spread viruses. Hospitals can provide supportive care for people who acquire AFM, with doctors monitoring bodily functions in case patients require breathing assistance before their bodies begin to fight the illness on their own.
Doctors say the most serious cases can lead to respiratory failure.
Messonnier stressed that while she understands how frightening this situation is for parents, they should remember that the infections are, in fact, rare.
Health officials said five kids in Maryland are believed to have contracted a virus this fall that has symptoms similar to polio.
So far, the CDC has found no relationship between vaccines and children diagnosed with AFM from the 2014 cases. Those officials are probing another 65 illnesses in those states. "For some of the previous cases we've identified one pathogen or another, but we have no unifying diagnosis". None have tested positive for poliovirus.
But the agency doesn't know who may be at higher risk nor why they may be at higher risk. The average age was 4.
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.
The disease made headlines recently when news broke of cases in Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Iowa and other states.
The CDC is not saying how many states have patients under investigation, only that it's more than 22.