"This is a mystery and we haven't solved it yet, so we have to be thinking broadly", said Messonnier, adding, "You'd think that we would finding a single agent and that's not what we're finding". Federal health officials this week sounded an alarm over an increasing incidence of AFM.
Acute flaccid myelitis typically causes weakness in the arms and legs, but can affect other muscle groups.
Doctors in Colorado experienced the same with children who fell ill in 2014, Dominguez said.
The CDC has tested many different specimens from patients with this condition for a wide variety of pathogens, or germs, that can cause AFM.
The CDC recommends people follow normal disease prevention steps, including staying current on vaccines, washing hands and wearing insect repellent.
In 2014, the CDC determined that the AFM cases in 2014 occurred during a national outbreak of children with enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), according to Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC. And in the most serious cases, it can be life-threatening. So far this year, there have been 62 confirmed cases in 22 states.
The condition remains very rare. Additionally, it doesn't know what long-term effects of the illness could look like.
7th Case of Rare Disease Diagnosed
Sixty-two cases of the rare but serious condition have now been confirmed in 22 states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey. People can protect themselves from contracting AFM using methods similar to preventing getting the flu, Ellerin said.
Some patients who contracted AFM quickly recover, while others end up with paralyzed arms and legs.
They also know that all six children developed the disease around the same time. Some patients have recovered and others continue to experience paralysis, requiring ongoing care. In 2016, that number rose to 149.
Similar neurological conditions are known to be caused by viruses, environmental toxins and genetic disorders.
Acute flaccid myelitis affects the spinal cord and can cause partial paralysis. MRI images reveal lesions one or more parts of the spinal cord. Some possible suspects, such as polio and West Nile virus, have been ruled out. In 2016, 22 across 17 states in 2015 and 120 across 34 states in 2014. "We don't know if it's a virus or an autoimmune process that's secondary to the virus". Figures show that the average age of an AFM patient is four.
But since the illness doesn't have a treatment, it's still not clear what impact early, accurate diagnosis can make. "In this cases it's unknown", Ehresmann said. "If you miss it, you're not missing a treatment". None of the US patients tested positive for polio, a crippling and often deadly disease which was eliminated in this country thanks to the polio vaccine. Of those, 30 states said they had cases that were confirmed, suspected or being investigated - including 15 states that said they had confirmed cases in 2018. Doctors at Children's have not seen an AFM patient needing a ventilator this year, but have treated such cases in the past, Benson said. This is the first report of potential AFM to the NDDoH.
Parents of a sick child should be on the lookout for any signs of weakness in the arms or legs, Pardo-Villamizar said.
Three Georgia children have been reported this year as having a rare, polio-like health condition, state officials said Wednesday.