Arizona health officials confirm 2 cases of rare illness paralyzing kids

One case of the rare, polio-like disease acute flaccid myelitis has been confirmed in Oklahoma, officials say.

Besides viruses, officials are also considering environmental toxins as a possible cause, but so far, they have no evidence that a particular toxin is behind the cases.

"We are seeing more cases of this in the USA than we are seeing in polio in the whole world", University of Colorado neurologist Kenneth Tyler tells Science.

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

It's a rare disease that can cause muscle weakness, partial paralysis, and general polio-like symptoms in children.

Fox 2/KPLR 11's Dan Gray talked to an infectious disease specialist who said the disease isn't new but should be considered a growing health concern.

In some individuals, health officials have determined that the condition was from infection with a type of virus that causes severe respiratory illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 62 cases in 22 states this year.

More broadly, she noted, "there is a lot we don't know about AFM".

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"I am frustrated that despite all our efforts we haven't been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness", Messonnier said. To date, no pathogen has been consistently detected in AFM patients.

A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia September 30, 2014.

The mystery disease may be caused by an enterovirus or rhinovirus, but these viruses have been found only in a few patients, which does not explain the increased number of cases at the end of summer.

Rarely, people with AFM can suffer respiratory failure and require ventilator support when their breathing muscles become too weak. Unlike polio, there is no vaccine for AFM.

Dr. Messonnier said, "We want to encourage parents to seek medical care right away if you or your child develops symptoms of AFM, such as sudden weakness and loss of muscle tone in your arms or legs". CDC experts say the overall rate of AFM is about one in a one million.

Officials said they will be conducting additional analysis on this year's cases.

History: The CDC has no idea why there has been a spike in cases, though there have been similar spikes in 2014 and 2016, according to Fox News.

"Early intervention is definitely always helpful". She noted the confirmed cases are in 22 states. "You don't need an bad lot of paralyzed children to make this an important problem".

But some state health departments have been making public their reported cases. In 2015 and 2017, the counts of reported illnesses were far lower.

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